The Bird Market in Yogyakarta, also known as Pasty (Fauna and Ornamental Plant Market of Yogyakarta), is a traditional gathering place animated by locals mainly on Sundays, that sees also his share of random tourists coming to visit Yogyakarta, the cultural capital of Java. Despite the name, we can't say that we have found anything cultural in the Bird Market, so you rather search somewhere else, if that's what you were looking for.
Previously located not far from the center of the city, Pasty has been moved in 2014 to a new place on Jalan Bantul Km 1, in the south outskirt of the city, in order to have a bigger and cleaner place, far away from the residential area, decision influenced by the memories of the bird flu that heavily affected Indonesia. According to the stories we heard, with this movement the market lost also much of its appeal.
It's not difficult to reach it, since it's lying on one of the main and busy roads going out of Jogya, easily reachable also by public transportation: in case you are lost just ask for Pasar Burung (Bird Market). But first make sure that you really wants to visit it after reading our report.
Along Jalan Bantul, outside of the Bird Market, there are many stands selling pigeons and welcoming the visitors as they arrive. During our permanence in Indonesia, we have experienced many times the sight of a man releasing a pigeon in the rice fields, and we asked some local friends what was the reason. We were told that the pigeons are released as a good deed, but they are trained to come back, so that you save money on the next sin you have to wash away. But at the same time after our researches in internet we found out that they are also used for Pigeon Racing, apparently a quite common hobby here in Indonesia.
There are two sections to visit in the market: on the west side of Jalan Bantul there are nursery gardens where it's possible to buy every kind of decorative tropical plant and flower, a few "good looking" pet shops with ornamental fishes, a warung (street food place) in the center of a dirty pond, and some abandoned buildings, in ruins despite new, showing a previous plan of grandeur for this place, that never came true. On the east side instead is found the real Bird Market.
While it is called Bird Market, also other animals can be found in the shops: lizards, varans, rabbits, dogs, cats, snakes and even monkeys. In the old location of the Pasar it was said that upon request it was possible to be shown even protected or endangered species, kept on a safe place on the back of the shop: we wouldn't be surprised if this practice would still be actual nowadays.
The only element of beauty that we have seen in the market, were the many handmade cages, baroque, colorful and artictic, that were adorning the aisle of the market, creating random but beautiful patterns able to hide for a moment the truth lying behind the bars of their eternal imprisonment.
The most heart breaking view, was probably the one of the Civets visibly shaking out of fear when somebody was getting close to the cage: their eyes were crying for forgiveness of a sin they have never committed. They are considered to be precious animals here in Indonesia, since they are used to produce the expensive "Kopi Luwak", a special coffee with a dubious taste made with the feces of a Civet being fed coffee beans.
At the same level of sadness was the view of dead and dying bats lying on the bottom of a crowded cage fully exposed to daily light. We were able to feel such an emphaty with these animals that are usually considered repulsive and disgusting by the most.
Another unbelievable scene we have seen in the Bird Market of Yogyakarta, was a box of chicks all painted in different bright colors, to please the kids and attract the wallets of their parents. Animals transformed in products, without any dignity.
Oti, while struggling not to burst in tears, wanted to buy some civets just to free them, and I struggled to change her mind saying that the poor animal not only would have died, but she would have financed the seller creating a demand for new animals to be "deported". Yes deported, because it really looks like a concentration camp rather than a market, with cages containing way more animals than it would be imaginable, in conditions way far from a still unfair and unwanted standard of captivity.
Pasty for us was the clear expression of disrespect for nature. We are sure that local people don't even question themselves about the conditions of the animals here, being the market part of their culture. And at the same time we don't feel like blaming Indonesian society for creating such a place, since a clean pet shop in the western world wouldn't cause less sufferance, but just hide it. Despite this the conditions in which the animals were kept in the Bird Market of Yogyakarta, forced us to face the harsh reality of animal trading, and to see the consequences that this poor animals have to bear in order to please the selfish beings that we are.