Courier nabbed trying to ship stuffed endangered birds of paradise in Indonesia

An Indonesian official holds two stuffed Cendrawasih (paradise) birds seized by local government in Makassar on Oct 12, 2016.
An Indonesian official holds two stuffed Cendrawasih (paradise) birds seized by local government in Makassar on Oct 12, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

MAKASSAR (AFP) - The Indonesian authorities on Wednesday (Oct 12) seized dozens of stuffed birds of paradise from a hapless courier who did not realise they were a protected species, an official said.

The courier walked into the government conservation agency in South Sulawesi province seeking permission to ship the 64 birds of paradise and more than 80 bundles of cassowary feathers by air freight, said local agency head Dody Wahyu Karyanto.

The cargo company had demanded the courier produce an official letter allowing him to transport the stuffed birds and feathers to Indonesia's easternmost province of Papua.

"Once we checked, it turned out this wildlife was a protected species. We immediately confiscated (the items) and held the courier for questioning," Mr Karyanto said.

He was helping the authorities as they try and track down the owners of the protected birds, who could face prosecution for breaking federal wildlife laws, Mr Karyanto added.

There are numerous species of birds of paradise - known locally as cendrawasih - with several found in Papua, which is Indonesia's half of the island of New Guinea.

Mr Karyanto said it appeared they were being treated by taxidermists in South Sulawesi before being returned to Papua for use in traditional headgear.

Indonesia has the highest number of threatened bird species in Asia, wildlife experts say. Huge numbers are poached and trafficked every year by smuggling gangs for sale as pets and as status symbols.