The conservation and regional implications of five native species threatened by the songbird trade


IUCN Red List Status

White-rumped shama

(Copsychus malabaricus)

Least Concern

Hill mynah

(Gracula religiosa)

Least Concern

Oriental white-eye

(Zosterops palpebrosus)

Least Concern

Oriental magpie-robin

(Copsychus saularis)

Least Concern

Straw-headed bulbul

(Pycnonotus zeylanicus)


The challenge

A previous Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund (WRSCF)-funded study on the white-rumped shama (Copsychus malabaricus) has revealed populations of mixed descent within Singapore, with important implications for management. Four more local songbirds have been identified as focal species for further research – the straw-headed bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus), the common hill myna (Gracula religiosa), the oriental magpie-robin (Copsychus saularis) and the oriental white-eye (Zosterops palpebrosus) – that remain poorly studied even in the face of trade-driven population declines.

The goal

Employing an interdisciplinary approach integrating both ecological survey methods and genomic evaluation using NGS to gather comprehensive solutions to this multifaceted issue. The study will allow us to have a better understanding of the ecology and genetic health of these target species that will facilitate appropriate conservation actions. Such a project would complement the framework of relevant conservation efforts.

Our role

WRSCF is providing funding support for this study.

The outcome

Specifically, this study hopes to provide an updated characterisation of local populations by identifying potential admixture between native and introduced populations of the target species, and scan for inbreeding depression. We also hope to identify cryptic lineages within these species that are deserving of species level protection.

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