The Javan Green Magpie (Cissa thalassina) is a Critically Endangered bird endemic to West Java which is suspected to be on the brink of extinction in the wild. The behavioural ecology of this species is still relatively unknown with very few scientific encounters with this species. Much of our knowledge of this species in the wild is anecdotal from local communities who live close to, and have a long history with, the forests that the Javan Green Magpie historically inhabited. This carnivorous and secretive bird is now known as a species that lives deep in forests favouring densely vegetated habitat with a water source. The main cause for the significant decline of the Javan Green Magpie is trapping for the caged-bird trade as this species is sought after due to its striking appearance and ability to mimic other calls and sounds. It is this ability to mimic that has gained it a reputation as a good “master bird” which means it can be used to learn and teach calls to birds used in singing competitions. Only as recently as 2019 has this species received protected status by the Indonesian government, making capture and trade of this species illegal.
CCBC started a breeding programme for the Javan Green Magpie in 2011 with individuals acquired in bird markets. This species is difficult to breed in captivity with very specific requirements with regards to diet, environment and pairings. After a period of a few years without breeding when this breeding programme was initiated, CCBC has gone on to have successful breeding results most years following. Due to the impressive breeding record of CCBC, the local population at CCBC now includes over half of the individuals within the International Studbook and holds very important genetics. In October 2015, 12 individuals were sent to European Zoos from CCBC to create a European population of Javan Green Magpie and mitigate the risk of having a significant percentage of the global captive populations individuals housed at the same site. This European population is managed under the EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquarium) via a regional studbook with pairing and breeding recommendations given to ensure the survival of the species in captivity and their genetic integrity.
Initiated in 2021, CCBC started a focused in-situ programme for the Javan Green Magpie. This programme started with research into the online and physical trade of the Javan Green Magpie as we tried understand the trade network. Parallel to this we spent time discussing with communities that lived close to habitat that had historical records of Javan Green Magpie either from literature, trade research or recommendations from our network. These initial stages were extremely important and have now led us to a point where we focus on one mountain range in West Java. This mountain range is very understudied by ornithological researchers and sits isolated from other mountain ranges but in relative closeness to multiple regions. As of 2023 we focus resources and two staff members to spend large periods of time at this mountain range with the following key objectives: (1) engagement and relationship building with key stakeholders, (2) forest surveying, and (3) trade research. This is a long-term project which we hope in the future leads us to a position where the Javan Green Magpie has a relatively safe habitat that involves the local communities in its protection, providing mutual benefit to these communities as well as the forest ecosystem.