The Bird Market in Yogyakarta is a traditional gathering place animated by locals mainly on Sundays, that sees also its share of random tourists. Previously located not far from the centre of the city, the Bird Market was moved southwards to the outskirts of the city, in order to have a bigger and cleaner place, far away from the residential area – a decision that was no doubt influenced by the memories of bird flu that heavily affected Indonesia.
During my travel throughout Indonesia, I experienced the sight of men releasing pigeons in the rice paddies and I was told that these pigeons are released as a good luck deed after performing a wrongdoing – but they are trained to come back to their masters, so that they save money on the next sin you have to wash away! Along with cock-fighting and pigeon-racing, it seems that Indonesians make good use of their birds!
While it is called Bird Market, also other animals can be found in the shops, such as slow loris, lizards, rabbits, cats, snakes – and even monkeys! I was reminded of Pasar Ekstrim in Tomohon, Sulawesi, as well as a notorious market in Jakarta where even orangutans and tiger cubs are often sold on the black market. Here at the Bird Market in Jogja, it is said that upon request it would be possible to be shown endangered species in the back of the shops.
I had heard stories of nocturnal animals (like bats and slow loris) being exposed to sunlight and left to die in the bottom of their small cages, while tourists and locals walked on by without a care in the world. Luckily, I didn’t see anything this serious, although the only element of beauty that I witnessed in the market were the many artistic and colourful handmade cages that were adorning the aisles here, creating random but beautiful patterns that were able to hide for a moment the truth lying behind the bars of the birds’ eternal imprisonment.
It’s not difficult to reach the Bird Market in Yogyakarta, since it’s lying on one of the main roads and only a stone’s throw from Taman Sari (which is a big tourist attraction in itself). But before you visit the Bird Market, you should make sure that it is something that really interests you, as it you could find the conditions of some of the birds here quite distressing.