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Significance of the globally threatened Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus populations in Singapore: a last straw for the species?

  • DING LI YONG (a1) (a2) (a3), KIM SENG LIM (a1), KIM CHUAH LIM (a1), TRIXIE TAN (a1), SIYANG TEO (a3) and HUA CHEW HO (a1)...
Summary

The globally threatened Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus is one of South-East Asia’s most imperilled songbirds due to the surging demand for the species in the regional bird trade. Recently uplisted from Vulnerable to Endangered, populations of the Straw-headed Bulbul have been extirpated from Java, Thailand and possibly Sumatra while those in Borneo and Peninsular Malaysia are in decline. Intriguingly, a significant yet rarely documented population of this species persists in Singapore. A major stronghold in Singapore is Ubin Island where a population is known since the 1920s. Using a long-term citizen science dataset rarely available for South-East Asian bird species, we determined the status and population trends of the Straw-headed Bulbul in Singapore over a 10–15 year period using Poisson regression models and standardised population indices. We found that the Straw-headed Bulbul population has increased at a rate of 3.69 ± 1.21% per annum on Ubin Island, while the population on Singapore Island remained stable (0.56% per annum) from 2000 to 2016. The population trends in Singapore contrast starkly with the declines reported elsewhere in South-East Asia. We estimated the population in Singapore to be a minimum of 202 individuals, distributed over multiple forest patches. The largest subpopulation of about 110 adult individuals persists on Ubin and which alone forms between 6.5–18.3% of the estimated global population in 2016. Given this unique situation, we recommend a number of conservation measures for the Straw-headed Bulbul to better protect the species, including: (1) an expansion of the protected area network in Singapore to include Ubin as a reserve, (2) the development of an endangered species management plan and, (3) the establishment of ex-situ conservation programmes in zoological institutions and wildlife centres in the region.

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Corresponding author
*Author for correspondence; e-mail: zoothera@yahoo.com
References
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Bird Conservation International
  • ISSN: 0959-2709
  • EISSN: 1474-0001
  • URL: /core/journals/bird-conservation-international
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