Near the village of Ped on Bali’s Nusa Penida, the Friends of the National Parks Foundation (FNPF) runs a programme aimed at protecting and boosting the numbers of the endangered Bali starling, or Bali mynah. Numbers of the pretty bird, with white plumage, a long white crest and distinctive bright blue frame around its eyes, plunged over the past half a century in Bali, as development exploded and the starling proved popular with poachers.
In 2005, fewer than 10 birds were believed to be in the wild; a year later, FNPF, working closely with the dozens of villages on the island, effectively established Nusa Penida as a sanctuary for the birds. Some 150 birds now survive in the wild on Penida, as well as nearby Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan.
Stopping by the foundation’s office is one of the few things to do on Penida and is well worth your time. Try to arrange a bird-watching session with one of the volunteers — sunrise or sunset are the best times to see them in action — and the volunteers will also point out the wooden boxes where, on our visit, several eggs were being protected.
The FNPF accepts paying short- and long-term volunteers, too — with plenty of work to be done, such as organic gardening, reforestation, GPS mapping — see the full list here. From what we have seen, FNPF is a great grassroots organisation getting results — volunteering with them means your time is well spent, and you’ll also be staying on a unique piece of Bali few tourists get to see.
On our visit, we went for a half-hour walk through the coconut grove near the Foundation’s office, hoping to spot one of the birds swooping overhead. Alas, it was a quiet dusk and we didn’t have any luck, though we did get to see a “Singapore” fruit tree, with a sweet fig-apple type berry that the birds love.
This isn’t the thick of nature; seaweed farmer shacks line the beachfront nearby, children play, chickens scrabble and pigs oink, which goes to show the birds don’t need great swathes of forest to survive — they simply need protection from poachers. On mainland Bali they have a history of snaring them for sale on the blackmarket for around 20 million rupiah (around $2,000) each, one of the volunteers told us.
If you volunteer, you can stay in basic digs at the office, but a newish rather flash hotel is also now open right next door. Nusa Penida’s accommodation options are thin on the ground, but wherever you stay, do make the effort to stop by here to see the work being done for the birds — and do offer a small donation for the workers’ time.
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