Beauty behind bars

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Quite possibly all cultures share an admiration for nature, which can often be hard to appreciate if you come from elsewhere. We visited the bird market at Pasar Burung in Denpasar (Bali), where we expect to find bats on sale. The profusely decorated homemade cages seem to compete in beauty with the numerous colourful species of exotic wild birds that are up for sale. However, a closer look at the back rooms of some of these shops reveals a less charming reality: cages in which dozens of birds are crowded into minute spaces waiting to be bought or put on show; baby monkeys chained up in the dark that watch us pass by, their eyes wide-open in fright; birds of all sorts kept in paper boxes with neither food nor water; and bats kept in minute cages in which they barely fit. The bat seller tells us that they are well looked after, that they live a long time, and that people buy them to keep at home. The cost of a bat in Bali confirms that they are not sold for food: each bat costs in the region of 15–75 €, depending on the species. It is increasingly difficult to find bats on Bali, we are told, and so the bats on sale here come from the neighbouring island of Borneo.

Craft bird cages
Craft bird cages
Caged red-headed weavers <em>Amadina erythrocephala</em>
Caged red-headed weavers Amadina erythrocephala
Flying foxes on sale as pets
Flying foxes on sale as pets
Macaque babies waiting to be put on sale
Macaque babies waiting to be put on sale