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The Bali myna (Leucopsar rothschildi), also known as Rothschild's mynah, Bali starling, or Bali mynah, locally known as jalak Bali, is a medium-sized (up to 25 cm long), stocky myna, almost wholly white with a long, drooping crest, and black tips on the wings and tail. The bird has blue bare skin around the eyes, greyish legs and a yellow bill. Both sexes are similar.
Taxonomy and systematics
Placed in the monotypic genus Leucopsar, it appears to be most closely related to Sturnia and the brahminy starling which is currently placed in Sturnus but will probably soon be split therefrom as Sturnus as presently delimited is highly paraphyletic. The specific epithet commemorates the British ornithologist Lord Rothschild.
The Bali myna is a medium-large bird of 25 cm. It is almost wholly white with a long, drooping crest, black wing-tips and tail tip. It has a yellow bill with blue bare skin around the eyes and legs. The black-winged starling (Sturnus melanopterus), a similar species, has a shorter crest and a much larger area of black on wings and tail, plus a yellow eye-ring (without feathers) and legs.
Distribution and habitat
The Bali myna is restricted to the island of Bali in Indonesia, where it is the island's only endemic vertebrate species. (An endemic subspecies, the Bali tiger, has been extinct since 1937) The bird was discovered in 1910, and in 1991 was designated the faunal emblem of Bali. Featured on the Indonesian 200 rupiah coin, its local name is jalak Bali.
Behaviour and ecology
In its natural habitat it is inconspicuous, using tree tops for cover and–unlike other starlings–usually coming to the ground only to drink or to find nesting materials; this would seem to be an adaptation to its noticeability to predators when out in the open. The Bali mynah often gathers in groups when it is young to better locate food and watch out for predators. The vocalizations are a variety of sharp chattering calls and an emphatic twat.
The Bali myna's diet includes fruit, seeds, worms and insects.
During the breeding season (the rainy season of Bali), males attract females by calling loudly and bobbing up and down. The birds nest in tree cavities, with the female laying and incubating two or three eggs. Both males and females bring food to the nest for chicks after hatching.
Status and conservation
The Bali myna, Bali's regional mascot, is critically endangered, hovering immediately above extinction in the wild for several years now (BirdLife International 2006). The Bali myna is listed in Appendix I of CITES. Trade even in captive-bred specimens is strictly regulated and the species is not generally available legally to private individuals. However, experienced aviculturalists may become affiliated with captive-breeding programs, allowing them to legally keep this species. The exact number of birds remaining in the wild is unknown, with estimates in 2012 of 24 adults in West Bali National Park and over 100 on the Balinese island of Nusa Penida. At least 1,000 birds are believed to be held in captivity legally. The number of captive birds bought on the black market is estimated to be twice the number of legally acquired individuals in the captive breeding programs.
There are currently three locations on Bali where the birds exist in the wild: the West Bali National Park; Bali's small island of Nusa Penida and Begawan Foundation's breeding site at Sibang adjacent to Green School.
Bali myna breeding program
A "breeding loan" involves 12 breeders who each received 15 male and 15 female from the Association of Starling Conservationists from Bogor, West Java. As collateral every breeder should put up a cow in case all the birds died. The breeders are obliged to release 10 percent of the brood into the national park and the rest can be sold off privately.
West Bali National Park
There were an estimated 350 birds in the West Bali National Park in the 1980s. During the 1990s over 400 cage-bred birds were released into the park to increase their numbers. But by 2005, the park authorities estimated the number to have fallen to less than 10. This decline was caused primarily by poachers responding to the lucrative demand for rare birds in the caged bird market.
Nusa Penida island
A population of Bali mynas Bali starlings now exists on the island of Nusa Penida and its sister islands of Nusa Ceningan, Nusa Lembongan, which are 14 km off the south east coast of Bali. The islands have been transformed into an "unofficial" bird sanctuary by (Friends of National Parks Foundation) (FNPF), an Indonesian NGO based in Bali. This was achieved by FNPF working for many years with the 40+ villages on the islands and persuading every village to pass a traditional Balinese village regulation to protect birds, and effectively removing the threat of poachers. Since then, FNPF has rehabilitated and released several endangered birds onto the island of Nusa Penida, including many Bali mynas supplied from multiple breeders.
Begawan Foundation (BF) began its Bali Starling Breeding Program in 1999. From two pairs imported by the founders, Bradley and Debbie Gardner, by 2005, there were 97 birds, thus it was time to look at the release program. In 2005 Begawan Foundation moved its population of captive Bali starlings from Begawan Giri Estate to Nusa Penida, where in 2006 and 2007, BF released 64 cage-bred Bali starlings. Monitoring of the released birds suggests that their numbers had increased to +100 by 2009, and had spread across Penida, with small numbers also breeding on Ceningan and Lembongan. Begawan Foundation field staff have monitored the released birds on a daily basis since their release and have a dedicated Field Officer since 2010. Findings are regularly reported their findings to the Forestry Department, with photos and films taken of the birds' activities.
On April 28, 2007, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of the Republic of Indonesia and First Lady Kristiani Herawati accepted an invitation from FNPF's founder, Drh I. G. N. Bayu Wirayudha, to release a further 12 birds, also bred by Begawan Foundation, when they visited Nusa Penida to celebrate the launch of a ferry service to mainland Bali.
Further official recognition came during a visit to Nusa Penida on August 25 by the Indonesian Forestry Minister M. S. Kaban and Dr Ir Tonny Suhartono, the Director General for Forestry Preservation and Nature Conservation. These two dignitaries officially announced that the island was a suitable site for further releases of Bali starlings.
In November 2011, FNPF released 10 Bali mynas donated by US Fish and Wildlife Service. The Governor of Bali, I. Made Mangku Pastika visited the FNPF bird centre on Nusa Penida and officially attended the release released 10 Bali starlings.
In December 2012, FNPF released 6 Bali starlings onto the smaller island of Nusa Lembongan. A small number of the growing Nusa Penida population had spread to Nusa Ceningan and Lembongan so FNPF released these 6 birds to help boost their population and to increase the genetic diversity of this small group. 
The Bali starlings released by FNPF in 2011 and 2012 were bred and supplied by Indonesia's most experienced Bali starling breeder, Mr Soehana Otojoe, who has bred over 850 Bali starlings since the 1980s in his centre in Badung, West Java.
FNPF expects to release approximately 10 Bali mynas each year. The birds will continue to be sourced from different breeders to increase the genetic diversity of the growing wild population on Nusa Penida.
The unique success of the project on Nusa Penida to create a wild population on Nusa Penida is primarily due to the threat of poachers being removed, combined with a successful breeding, rehabilitation and release program. The removal of the threat from poachers was achieved by Drh I. Gede Nyoman Bayu Wirayudha (veterinarian) and his Indonesian NGO, Friends of the National Parks Foundation (FNPF) by persuading all Penida communities to protect birds. FNPF spent 2 years counseling all of the key people of influence on the Penida islands on the benefits of protecting birds and conservation.
In 2006 all 35 villages (now 41 villages) unanimously agreed to make bird protection part of their traditional regulations ("awig-awig"), making it a social and spiritual obligation for all Penida residents to protect birds. Bali starlings and other endangered birds that are released onto Nusa Penida are now protected by the local communities. Monitoring of the birds by FNPF indicate that none of the released Bali starlings or their subsequent offspring have been stolen.
FNPF retains the ongoing commitment of the Penida communities to protect birds through a variety of community development and community education projects ... all of which bring social and economic benefits to the local residents.
However, there is evidence that has been reported to both village chiefs and government authorities of trapping implements being found in areas where Bali starlings are nesting.
An external audit undertaken by Begawan Foundation along with Wildlife Reserves Singapore and Bali Bird Park in 2011 recorded 52 Bali starlings sighted, including a flock of 22 birds.
The last audit undertaken by BKSDA (Balai Konservasi Sumber Daya Alam Bali) on Nusa Penida was held during the first week of July 2014, with government staff accompanied by three members of Begawan Foundation. A further audit by BKSDA was held in July 2014 with an unofficial total of 20 birds sighted.
According to a recent audit undertaken by Begawan Foundation on both Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan in February and March 2015, less than 15 birds were seen to be flying in the wild.
Calculations undertaken suggest that by 2015, even taking natural predation and death of older birds into account, there should be at least 200 birds flying on Nusa Penida today. It would seem that the illegal wildlife trade will bring about the demise of the Bali Starling.
Sibang, Central Bali
In 2010, Begawan Foundation made a decision to move all its captive breeding Bali starlings from Nusa Penida to a new site at Sibang, near Ubud. The breeding program then recommenced with the aim to research new release sites close by. During 2011, a total of 23 Bali starlings were donated to BF's breeding program. Three birds were donated by Jurong Bird Park, and 20 came from a variety of zoos across Europe, members of the European Endangered Species Program, whose contributions of birds meant that new genetic lines would be introduced when the imported birds were paired with the local birds held at the breeding centre in Bali.
In November 2012, Begawan Foundation released four pairs of Bali starlings at its breeding site in Sibang. These birds were observed and their daily habits recorded by staff of the Foundation and students of the adjacent Green School. A program of conservation was undertaken with the local villages prior to the release and has the full support of the King of Sibang. Each bird has been ringed in order to identify it as it adapts to life in the wild. As this was a soft release, the birds often take the opportunity to return to the breeding site to find food and water. However, it is evident that new sources of fruit and a variety of insects are available in the immediate vicinity that provide a full and healthy diet for these birds and their offspring.
In 2014, there were three releases by Begawan Foundation at their site in Sibang. Three male birds and one female were released in April, with support from the local community. In June, Dr. Jane Goodall, during her visit to Bali, assisted in the release of two Bali starlings. 
In September, during a visit to the Green School, adjacent to Begawan Foundation’s Breeding and Release site, Ban Ki Moon and his wife released a further two birds. Several birds are known to be breeding in both natural and manmade nest boxes, and daily monitoring shows that since the first release in 2012, and the reduction of predators, such as cats, the number of other species of birds returning to the site has increased dramatically.
Begawan Foundation has in place three foster parent schemes, where pairs are cared for offsite are in place, one in Sibang, one in Ubud and the third at Amankila, where it is hoped that a future release may be possible in the surrounding forested area.
The birds continue to be monitored in the wild, tracking where the birds nest and breed, ensuring that each bird released or born is followed throughout its life. This important role ensures that any future releases will be made with planned knowledge of how the bird survives in the wild, what food is required, and how it breeds, as well as noting possible threats, both natural and human. Begawan Foundation is committed to continued monitoring and reporting any activities that are seen to be detrimental to the success of the program started in 1999.
- BirdLife International (2013). "Leucopsar rothschildi". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Jønsson, Knud A.; Fjeldså, Jon (2006). "A phylogenetic supertree of oscine passerine birds (Aves: Passeri)". Zoologica Scripta 35 (2): 149–186. doi:10.1111/j.1463-6409.2006.00221.x.
- "Bali Mynah Fact Sheet, Lincoln Park Zoo"
- Jakarta bird market NYTimes, October 25, 2015
- Bali launches starling breeding program | The Jakarta Post
- "Begawan Foundation Diary Vol.03/Mar 2015: Bird Audit"
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