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For decades Indonesians, particularly those in the Java region, have kept birds as pets in their homes as a symbol of high class and tradition. It is said that over 20% of all Indonesian households, particularly those in large cities, keep both domestic/commercially bred as well as wild-caught birds.

Given these figures, it is no wonder that bird markets are extremely popular with the locals. A bird market is essentially an outdoor pet store, found in most cities across Java. We stumbled upon one in Malang, East Java and were fascinated by the experience.

Max at the Malang Bird Market, East Java, Indonesia

Max roaming around the Malang Bird Market, East Java, Indonesia

The market in Malang consisted of stalls upon stalls of bird cages, but there was a lot of other animals sold in this market. There were lizards, bunnies, cats, dogs, snakes, and more often sold at exorbitant prices. 

Bunnies at the Malang Bird Market, East Java, Indonesia

Bunnies at the Malang Bird Market, East Java, Indonesia

Kittens for sale at the Malang Bird Market, East Java, Indonesia

Kittens for sale at the Malang Bird Market, East Java, Indonesia

Birds in cages at the Malang Bird Market, East Java, Indonesia

Birds in cages at the Malang Bird Market, East Java, Indonesia

Despite being extremely cultural experiences, these markets are also highly controversial. As you could imagine, the animals here aren’t kept in great conditions, and many of the animals (particularly birds) that are sold at the markets are actually wild-caught, often endangered species.

Owl for sale at the Malang Bird Market, East Java, Indonesia

Owl for sale at the Malang Bird Market, East Java, Indonesia

Research indicates that these markets and the overall scale of bird-keeping in Indonesia represents a genuine conservation threat to native population of wildlife across the country. Unfortunately, the matter doesn’t seem to be high priority for the local authorities and markets like these are still booming in cities like Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Denpasar and many others.

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Cultural Close-ups is a series of photographs and stories from around the world that go beyond the pretty sights and famous attractions. If you’d like to contribute a photo and a short story to Cultural Close-Ups, please email your submission to [email protected]

What do you think of the bird trade in Indonesia?