A yellow-crested cockatoo. Photo: iStock.
A yellow-crested cockatoo. Photo: iStock.

A non-government organization in Indonesia says around 200 cockatoos – large white birds with a sulphur crest on their head – have been surrendered to authorities in the country in recent years.

But not many have been able to be released back into the wild, because of conditions they have endured while kept as pets, wildlife groups say.

Indonesia has a large illegal trade in birds such as songbirds or large attractive birds such as cockatoos, which are native to eastern Indonesia and Australia.

Cockatoos are highly sought after by collectors because they are pretty and clever enough to be able to mimic human voices or perform tricks. Some have a yellow or sulfur-colored crest on their head, while others have a salmon-colored crest.

Dudi Nandika from the Indonesian Parrot Project said the Environment and Forestry Ministry launched a campaign that saw citizens give up cockatoos they had caught in the wild or obtained illegally, according to Mongabay.

The birds handed over to government officials after the campaign was launched were put in the care of zoos and safari parks initially.

However, 42 of them were released back into the wild in an untimely manner, as they did not receive adequate medical testing and appropriate rehabilitation, Nandika said.

Many of the birds that were surrendered had been tied to perches for so long they are unable to fly properly, which meant they would be in great danger in the wild. And some of the birds had feathers that had also been severely plucked.

Tony Sumampau, the director of theme park operator Taman Safari Indonesia, said only eight out of the 28 cockatoos it received were well enough to even be considered for release. Due to the lack of proper facilities, the birds were freed without going through any rehabilitation.

In May 2015 authorities arrested a wildlife smuggler at a port in Surabaya on Java Island. The smuggler reportedly tried to move 24 yellow-crested cockatoos by stuffing them in plastic water bottles.

The case attracted a lot of attention due to public anger over the cruel treatment of the birds when images of the cockatoos stuck in the bottles were revealed. It led to the Indonesian government forming the campaign for people to hand over their cockatoos.

In Indonesia’s legal system, it is illegal to keep, sell or kill a yellow-crested cockatoo caught in the wild.

Wildlife groups said the campaign for people to hand over their cockatoos revealed that there are not enough facilities where such birds can be housed or cared for, if they cannot be released back into the wild.