Hundreds of cultural groups gather annually to celebrate the country’s Independence Day in their traditional attires. But have you ever thought about how many different birds and animals go into making those outfits?
WCS PNG has and with their campaign “Strongim Kastom – Lukautim Bilas Bilong Yu,” they will be giving away 250 “bilas” protection kits for free to help cultural groups and “bilas” owners look after their outfits, and in particular are focusing on the users of Vulturine Parrot feathers.
Vulturine Parrots are famous for their brilliant red feathers which are a critical component of headdresses in ceremonial Highlands’s attire.
As a consequence the parrot is threatened with extinction due to over hunting.
Indeed, WCS researcher Grace Nugi, former Miss PNG, found that there were over 54,000 bilas owners in Kerowagi alone and this would equate to over 432,000 individual Vulturine Parrots being used in their bilas ornamentation.
While Nugi found bilas ornamentation typically lasted around 20 years she estimated that approximately one (1) in 10 birds living in the wild would be killed annually just to replace damaged headdresses in Kerowagi district alone.
WCS is focusing on helping extend the life span of the bilas ornamentation by giving out simple kits that should help protect against mould, mice and insect damage.
Each kit consists of plastic and paper sheaths, camphor mothballs and instructions. Also included in the kits are artificial Vulturine Parrot feathers for people to make spot repairs on their headdresses.
WCS hopes that by extending the lifespan of the headdresses by four to five years such kits would prevent, for each outfit, one bird killed needlessly to replace damaged feathers.
WCS will be running an information stall this Friday to Sunday and encourages anyone interested in this issue to visit them.