Critically endangered cockatoos were found stuffed in plastic water bottles in Indonesia during an antismuggling operation.
Police arrested one man suspected of bringing the approximately two dozen birds from Makassar, Sulawesi, and customs officials freed the animals at Tanjung Perak Port in Surabaya, Indonesia, CNN reports.
“[It] shows the lengths that some people will go to try to smuggle birds,” said Richard Thomas, global communications coordinator for Traffic International, which monitors wildlife trade. Plastic water bottles are a common method of smuggling the birds in the region, where wildlife trafficking is widespread.
Authorities found at least two species of cockatoos in the water bottles, according to Indonesia’s Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA). One of them, the yellow-crested cockatoo — Cacatua sulphurea — has largely disappeared from mainland Indonesia, with the most significant population residing on Komodo island.
“[The yellow-crested cockatoos is] a breed that is at very serious risk because of excessive trafficking of wild populations,” Thomas said. “Most of those birds are destined to be trafficked to parrot collector and breeders, rather than the meat market. There’s a lot of demand for parrots and cockatoos in southeast Asia and Europe.”