International Primate Protection League
Pramuka - The Animal Market from Hell
by Stephen V. Nash

The Pramuka bird market in Jakarta, Indonesia, is Southeast Asia's largest bird and wildlife market. Located in the northeast corner of the city, it is the largest of the city's three bird markets. Pramuka has been in operation since 1975, starting in a building housing 124 market stalls.
In the late 1980s the Jakarta Market Authority added a four-story building on adjacent land, containing 200 stalls. Not all are occupied and just over 250 stalls are open for business on any given day.
I had the opportunity to survey the market 12 times in 1992 and 1993, for a TRAFFIC Southeast Asia study of the region's bird trade. During each of those visits, readily recognizable protected species were offered for sale by touts and displayed in a corner of the market.

Birds for Sale

While several hundred parrots of a dozen or more species could always be found, parrots and other CITES-listed species were always greatly outnumbered by non-CITES birds. This is because the Pramuka market serves the local demand, and none of the species on display are for the export market (most parrots are usually exported).
Once on a typical day I counted all the wild songbirds I saw - and came up with 20,500 birds of 77 species! That, on average, it takes about two weeks for traders to sell their stock gives some idea of the turnover: over 40,000 wild birds a month, only to local buyers.
During a few hours' walk around the market it was not unusual to record 90 or more species, and no matter how many times I visited this market, even on several days in a row, there would always be something I had not seen there before.
The surveys turned up about 300 local species, a truly amazing variety. It was at this market, after all, I once saw a rare Javan scops owl for sale. This species is known from only one area in Java (in a national park, no less), and has been seen only a few times this century.

Law Ignored

The capture and internal transport of birds are supposed to be regulated by a system of capture and transport permits, and many species are totally protected from capture. However, the system is not applied and few if any of the birds in the Pramuka market have been "legally" captured.
Under the much publicized Environmental Act of 1990, unauthorized capture of protected species can carry a penalty of imprisonment up to a maximum of five years and a fine up to a maximum of $50,000; trade in protected species through negligence is liable to one year's imprisonment and a $25,000 fine.
Despite the daily infractions in the Pramuka market (and in virtually every wildlife market in Indonesia), to the best of my knowledge no one has ever been charged under the Act for catching and selling endangered species in bird markets. And there are so many nationally protected species on sale that one gets the distinct impression that no place is safe from bird catchers.

Mammals for Sale Too

Not only birds were offered for sale: leopard cats, civets, primates such as macaques, gibbons, and slow lorises, otters, and various lizards and snakes were also on display. Occasionally, touts offered to take me to where species such as orangutans, sun bears and young tigers could be purchased.
In 1994 I heard reports of a crackdown by wildlife authorities on the Pramuka market. I assumed this had come about because of outside efforts to bring attention to the problem of the bird trade in Indonesia. At the time Indonesia was under review by the CITES Standing Committee, and authorities were making serious efforts to restructure how the trade in wild species was being managed.
Because of these efforts, Indonesia narrowly evaded sanctions at the November 1994 CITES meeting in Fort Lauderdale. I thought the bad old days of the Pramuka market were over.

Pramuka Revisited

In October 1995, I again had the opportunity to spend several days in the Pramuka market. I fully expected to find the market a shadow of its former self, and selling more in the line of captive-bred birds. After all, locally bred zebra doves, "singing" roosters, and pigeons are extremely popular in Jakarta (the latter are "flown" like we would fly a kite, returning to their owner) and the captive-bred birds are usually fairly well cared for.

Nothing Changes

To my disappointment I found the Pramuka market had not changed at all.
There were still over 250 stalls doing business, and I saw no indication of a drop in trade. If anything, I saw more protected species on sale than before.
For instance, I noted there were changeable hawk-eagles, black-shouldered kites, and one individual of an extremely rare endemic race of the honey buzzard for sale, despite the fact that all birds of prey are totally protected in Indonesia.
Protected status was not stopping the sale of white-throated kingfishers, banded pittas, black-winged starlings, pied fantails, sunbirds and flowerpeckers, blue-crowned and Javan barbets, and several eclectus parrots. Ironically, the demand for these species is great because of their protected status - owning and displaying them shows you are "above the law."
Many of the birds on display can only be found in the wild with considerable effort. Most naturalists visiting Java will return home without seeing Java sparrows, chestnut-capped and whistling thrushes, and local laughing thrushes - unless they see them at Pramuka.

Throwaway Birds

One contributor to the lack of birds in the countryside is the huge trade in "throwaway" birds, ones bought as novelty items to impress friends and neighbors, and that will quickly die in captivity. These birds are often relatively inexpensive, because the traders want to sell them before they die. Their low price makes them desirable and easily replaceable, creating a cycle that destroys many thousands of birds.
Flycatchers, woodpeckers, sunbirds, owls, and most forest birds will quickly die because of poor handling and inadequate diets (some effects are obvious - most green magpies turn a pale blue in captivity). To make things worse, shade-dwelling forest species are placed in small cages under the midday heat, a sure recipe for short survival.
During my walk through the market I came across a little black cormorant in a cardboard box. An unlikely "songbird" if there ever was one, and, like so many thousands of birds in the market that day, it was not going to last very long. As before, there was other wildlife for sale.
I arrived in Jakarta during a craze for iguanas from Central America and there was a thriving sale in these, along with the smaller local lizards, and snakes too. As usual there were many types of squirrels, civet cats, some small otters, and primates on display. Both short-tailed and long-tailed macaques were there, as were silvered leaf monkeys, slow lorises, and a young siamang.

What's going on?

Are the authorities aware of the problem? Why is this still going on? It is very frustrating that the government is well aware of the state of affairs in the Pramuka market, but does nothing about it. I've been told that uniformed wildlife officers occasionally "raid" the market.
However, with the convoluted layout of the market and the many watchful eyes, I picture that no sooner are these officers halfway across the parking lot, all the well-known protected species, including the primates, are hauled away across the back fence to the convenient warren of alleyways surrounding the market.

Conference in Jakarta

In October, the government was preparing to host a meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Biodiversity Convention, to be held in Jakarta the following month. I was told the authorities were instructing market officials and traders to hide the stocks of protected species during the two-week period the meeting would convene. The city, they feared, would be flooded with delegates from foreign NGOs and journalists, and the government wanted to avoid any publicity that would mar their moment in the spotlight.
I don't know if the species were in fact removed from view, or if anybody bothered visiting the Pramuka market or any of the other wildlife markets - but in any case I presume "business" was back to its usual level shortly afterwards.


The cruelty to wildlife on Pramuka Market seems endless. In 1989, the BBC exposed the sale of orangutans, siamangs, rare species of leaf monkeys, and macaques, as well as endangered birds. Things have not improved since. We need lots of protest letters.

  1. ) Please write to:

  2. The Mayor of Jakarta
    Office of the Mayor
    Jl. Merdeka Selatan, Jakarta 10110, Indonesia.
  3. ) Please write to:

  4. Mr. Soemarsono, Director-General, PHPA
    Gedung Wantabakti Manggala, Jl. Gatot Subroto
    Jakarta, Indonesia.
  5. ) Please write the:

  6. Ambassador of Indonesia at the Embassy of Indonesia in your country of residence. In the US the address is:
    Embassy of Indonesia
    2020 Massachusetts Av. NW, Washington DC 20036, USA. In the United Kingdom, it is:Embassy of Indonesia
    38 Grosvenor Square, London W1X 9AD
    England. In Australia, it is:Embassy of Indonesia
    8 Darwin Av., Yarralumla, Canberra ACT 2600
Request courteously that sale of wildlife at Pramuka Market be banned because the trade is species-destructive and cruel. Inform these gentlemen that you have learned about the sale of endangered species such as siamangs and rare birds on Pramuka Market. Ask that any animal dealer found offering endangered wildlife for sale be imprisoned. Tell them that you have seen photos of animals on Pramuka Market sitting in the sun in small dirty cages and that you consider this to be cruel and inhumane. Request that Indonesia develop laws to stop cruelty to captive animals.
Please ask other animal protection groups you support to help this campaign or prepare a petition for your group.

after many years in a lab, Penny and her mate, Blackie, are now enjoying thier retirement at IPPL! Meet Penny, one of IPPL's Sanctuary Gibbons

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