Paradisaea bird or the bird of paradise found in Papua, Indonesia and also in New Guinea and eastern Australia had long been recognized for its rarely beautiful plumage. Known locally as Cendrawasih, this bird now suffers from illegal hunting and is on the brink of extinction.
Cendrawasih, is believed by local tribes to have a mystical properties, the tribes believe that the bird is the bird of the gods that come from heaven and because of that the birds will never set foot on ground. Members of the tribes use Cendrawasih feathers to decorate their heads and cloths during cultural feast.
There are around 43 birds of paradise species in the world, of which at least 28 can be found living in the rainforest of West Papua Province, Indonesia. The birds make their nest in tree holes and branches.
Paradiseae minor. Image credit
The average length of Paradiseae or Cendrawasih bird is around 13 inches including the ornamental plum. The males have different shocking colors of yellow, red, green and blue all over their body and tail that comes in different size and shapes. One of the most famous species, the Raggiana for example usually has orange tail, yellow neck and green chin. This extravagant look of beautiful feathers is properties of the males as they need it to attract females. The females on the contrary has dull brown feather with no colorful plumes. The dull color protects them when they are laying eggs and raising their young. Cendrawasih is mostly polygamous. For some monogamous species that mate for life, the color of the male is as dull as the female.
The Raggiana. Image via Wikipedia
Every morning, the males will gather in a specific tree to display their extensive feathers and dance their energetic courtship dance to win the heart of the females. This graceful movement has become inspiration of a local traditional dance.
The courtship dance. Image credit
The number of Cendrawasih bird left in the wild is unknown but believed to have declined rapidly in recent years. Cendrawasih is mainly killed by arrows, traps or riffle for its beautiful feathers. The feathers are sometimes sold openly in hotels or malls or secretly smuggled out of Papua. Recent trend however shows that collectors now want the bird alive to be kept as pet. The price for one bird is ranging from USD 100-600 in Jakarta. In Papua, the price is cheaper, only around USD 75-150
Paradiseae rubra. Image credit
Illegal trade of the bird had raised many concerns in respect of the survival of this species. Although the used of Cendrawasih’s feather for local tribes’ cultural ceremony is still allowed, the trade of this bird has actually been banned by the Indonesian government, but as the demand for the bird remains high, it only does little to stop the trading of the bird dead or alive in the black market.
Paradiseae apoda. Image credit
In addition to the above, Papua rainforest, which is the natural habitat of Cendrawasih, had been diminished rapidly due to land conversion, mining and logging activities.
WWF has been trying to increase awareness of the public about the endangered status of this beautiful bird. It is hoped that by decreasing the demand for this bird or its feather the numbers of birds killed will be reduced as well. Off course this effort has to be supported by the government by sternly reinforcing rules against the killing and trading of Cendrawasih.