Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 13, Issue 12, pp 2209–2226 | Cite as

Problems in the harvest of edible birds' nests in Sarawak and Sabah, Malaysian Borneo

  • Joseph J. Hobbs


Due to the value of their nests, there is great pressure on the populations of black-nest swiftlets (Collocalia maximus) and white-nest swiftlets (Collocalia fuciphagus) in the Malaysian provinces of Sarawak and Sabah. The problems are particularly acute at Gunung Mulu National Park, in spite of a complete ban on collection there, and at Niah National Park, where every participant in a complex collection and trading system has an incentive to take more nests than permitted. More successful harvest systems function in Sabah's Gomantong and Madai Caves. Recommendations for improved management of the nest harvest include addressing corruption, ensuring that local people with traditional rights to collect nests do not lose income to illegal immigrant labor and to traders, improving research and education about the swiftlets' behavior and ecology, and moving value-added processing of the nests closer to the caves where they originate and to the people who collect them.

Birds nests Borneo Ethnicity and resource access Malaysia Poaching Swiftlets 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anonymous AIDS Update 422. Asiaweek, p. 12.Google Scholar
  2. Earl of Cranbrook 1984. Report on the birds' nest industry in the Baram District and at Niah, Sarawak. Sarawak Museum Journal 33: 145–170.Google Scholar
  3. Earl of Cranbrook and Lim C.K. 1999. Cave swiftlets. In: Smythies B.E. (ed) The Birds of Borneo. 4th edn. Natural History Publications, Borneo, Kota Kinabalu, pp. 75–102.Google Scholar
  4. Francis C.M. 1987. The Management of Edible Bird's Nest Caves in Sabah. Sabah Forest Department, Wildlife Section, Sabah.Google Scholar
  5. Good L.K. 1993. The status of the black-nest swiftlet at Niah. Tiger Paper 20: 15–18.Google Scholar
  6. Harrisson T. 1956. The Bird Caves of Niah. Straits Times Annual 40–43.Google Scholar
  7. Harrisson T. and Jamuh G. 1956. Niah: the oldest inhabitant remembers. Sarawak Museum Journal 7: 451–462.Google Scholar
  8. Kang N., Hails C.J. and Sigurdsson J.B. 1991. Nest construction and egg-laying in ediblenest swiftlets Aerodramus spp. and the implications for harvesting. Ibis 133: 170–177.Google Scholar
  9. Langham N. 1980. Breeding biology of the edible-nest swiftlet Aerodramus fuciphagus. Ibis 122: 447–461.Google Scholar
  10. Leh C.M.U. 1993. A Guide to birds' Nest Caves and birds' Nests of Sarawak. The Sarawak Museum, Kuching, Malaysia.Google Scholar
  11. Lim C.K. 1999. Sustainable management and conservation of the white-nest swiftlets of Sarawak. Hornbill 3: 74–85.Google Scholar
  12. Lim C.K. 2000. Cave manager cum trader concept –a proposed co-management plan for communal edible bird's nest caves. Hornbill 4: 90–101.Google Scholar
  13. Lim C.K. and Earl of Cranbrook 2002. Swiftlets of Borneo: Builders of Edible Nests. Natural History Publications, Borneo.Google Scholar
  14. Marshall A.J. and Folley S.J. 1956. The origin of nest cement in edible-nest swiftlets (Collocalia spp). Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 126: 383–389.Google Scholar
  15. Medway L. 1957. birds' nest collecting. Sarawak Museum Journal 8: 252–260.Google Scholar
  16. Medway L. 1962a. The swiftlets (Collocalia) of Niah Cave, Sarawak. Part I. Breeding biology. Ibis 104: 45–66.Google Scholar
  17. Medway L. 1962b. The swiftlets (Collocalia) of Niah Cave, Sarawak. Part II. Ecology and regulation of breeding. Ibis 104: 228–245.Google Scholar
  18. Medway L. 1963. The antiquity of trade in edible birds' nests. Federation Museums Journal 8: 36–47.Google Scholar
  19. Murphy D. 2001. Weaving tiny nests and fortunes for Indonesians. The Christian Science Monitor 7: 10.Google Scholar
  20. Nee K. and Guan L.P. 1993. Bird's nest soup: panacea or ill? Nature Watch 1: 15–18.Google Scholar
  21. Nugroho E. and Whendrato I. 1996. The farming of edible-nest swiftlets in Indonesia. In: Technical Workshop on Conservation Priorities and Actions for Edible-nest Swiftlets, Surabaya, Indonesia, 4–7 November 1996. Eka Offset, Semarang.Google Scholar
  22. Phach N.Q. and Voisin J. 1998. Influence of cave structure, microclimate and nest harvesting on the breeding of the white-nest swiftlet Collocalia fuciphaga germani in Vietnam. Ibis 140: 257–264.Google Scholar
  23. Sandin B. 1958. Some Niah folklore and origins. Sarawak Museum Journal 8: 646–662.Google Scholar
  24. Sankaran R. 2001. The status and conservation of the edible-nest swiftlet (Collocalia fuciphaga) in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Biological Conservation 97: 283–294.Google Scholar
  25. Sim L.K. 1997. Population census of edible nest swiftlets (Collocalia maxima) in the Niah Caves. Hornbill 1: 83–93.Google Scholar
  26. Sims R.W. 1959. Edible birds' nests. New Biology 30: 47–58.Google Scholar
  27. Tompkins D.M. 1999. Impact of nest-harvesting on the reproductive success of black-nest swiftlets Aerodramus maximus. Wildlife Biology 5: 33–36.Google Scholar
  28. Waugh D.R. and HailsC.J. 1983. Foraging ecology of a tropical aerial feeding bird guild. Ibis 125: 200–217.Google Scholar
  29. Yates S. 1992. The Nature of Borneo. Factson File, New York.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph J. Hobbs
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of Missouri-ColumbiaMOUSA (e-mail

Personalised recommendations