Animal Update: Star the Bali Myna Saved from Trafficking

Bali myna starling Star photo by Jamie Pham
Bali myna starling Star. Photo by Jamie Pham

BiodiverCity, a new podcast collaboration between the L.A. Zoo and Gottlieb Native Garden, explores what happens when wildlife and city life collide. In the first episode, we brought you the story of Star, an extremely rare Bali myna bird rescued from a suitcase at LAX. She’d been stuffed in a sock to be smuggled illegally and against deadly odds—but her miraculous survival meant she needed a safe home after her rescue.

When Star arrived at the Zoo, she brought with her a hope that her valuable genetics might help strengthen the population of her rare and endangered species. Now, we’re thrilled to say that Star and her mate, Apollo, have become parents, and their chicks are adding to the genetic diversity of Bali mynas in human care.

The L.A. Zoo’s Curator of Birds, Rose Legato, shares that this second miracle wasn’t a given. “We had some challenges in the beginning, which is not uncommon for confiscated birds,” she says. It took some time for Star to relax and for us to “dial in on exactly what Star needed.” But soon nature took its course. The chicks were hatched, and Star and Apollo “expertly helped their offspring thrive.”

Bali Myna Chicks
These chicks would never have hatched without the intervention of people dedicated to stopping the illegal pet trade. Photo by Jamie Pham

And the chicks are still doing great. The three of them are about a year old, and Legato has hopes that they will soon start their own journeys to help carry the banner for their species.

Legato says, “It’s humbling and a privilege” to be a part of maintaining a population of Bali mynas, especially when that work crosses over into complicated territory. “I know I’m not alone,” she explains, “it takes a village to make it possible.”

In fact, that village is alive and active. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Wildlife Trafficking Alliance is partnering with International Fund for Animal Welfare on the Not a Pet campaign this fall, and the L.A. Zoo is one of three pilot zoos helping to spread the word about illegal wildlife trade and its consequences. Learn more about the impetus behind the campaign and hear from the Zoo’s director of conservation, Dr. Jake Owens, here. And, look for more stories on site at the Zoo the next time you visit.

If you missed Star’s story, check back on episode one of BiodiverCity. It’s available now, along with several other episodes and bonus featurettes, including a deep dive in episode two into the life and story of Griffith Park’s beloved bachelor cougar, P-22.

Author: Autumn Hilden