Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Visitor from Holland

Visiting David de Souza,

In March this year, Sjef van den Branden, who is from Holland, was kind enough to visit my home.  He knows my dear friend, Axel Voltz, and I was happy to spend some time with him in the company of my very good friends, William and Jeffrey.

Following the visit, Sjef wrote an article for his club magazine.  I requested for a translation for my blog and he very kindly took the trouble to translate the article into English.  Below is the article.  It has been lightly edited by me. My comments are in [    ].

If you've ever searched for information about the copsychus malabaricus you'll probably know [David De Souza]. An encounter was arranged because we have a mutual friend ,  something what I thought to be very hard, because David told me he gets a lot of requests from all around the world. Usually he doesn't reply to those requests, however I did get invited to meet him at his home and two of his best schamafriends.

The selection
David picked me up at the hotel and once we arrived at David's house, I saw his  shamas and trust me: the tails are even longer in real life. I can also tell you that his schama's don't have tiny bodies, they are beautiful average sized schamas. David and his friends select on shape and length of the tail, the figure, the singing and how a bird presents itself.

How did they achieve that goal?
First of all by searching for the most beautiful birds with the longest tails in surrounding countries and islands like Thailand and Vietnam. Smaller birds appeared to be less suitable to show their bigger tails, so they need to have a reasonable posture. Then the best imitators were selected which already had quite good singing skills. They became even greater singers by listening to other sounds of birds.

David suggested the European Schamakeepers to do the same, if they want to have better and more beautiful birds. He understands that we don't have the same possibilities here when it comes to selection, that they had. A goal that they could achieve in let's say [a few years], the same goal would take us [much longer], but now with the export stop it's almost impossible to achieve.

Way of breeding
The way of breeding is quite different than our manner. You would expect that they breed their birds in aviaries full of plants. However there was no green to be found in the cages and there wasn't any contact with the ground. There were only newspapers at the bottom. [I prefer newspapers as it is easier to clean]

Supply and demand
David and his friends asked me what an average shama costs in Europe and I told them that the price would be about 200, 300 or even 500 euros for the most beautiful birds. Then I asked them how much they would ask for one of their birds.  They don't sell their birds that often, but if they do, they sell them for an amount of money that I don't dare to mention.  [It's all a question of rarity and supply and demand.  In recent years, there has been an upsurge in the popularity of the shama in South East Asia and especially in Thailand.   The most beautiful long-tailed shamas are rare and therefore command high prices for serious hobbyists and breeders.  The highest price paid for a shama in Singapore was S$16,000.00 (about 8,000 Euros). Another was sold in Malaysia for S$14,000.00 and resold in Thailand for S$18,000.00.  For those who wish to start with juvenile shamas because of cost or other reasons, a juvenile with great potential may fetch from S$4,500.00 to twice this amount]

Then there was a moment of silence and I thought: This is incredible. My amazement got even bigger when they told me that the amount of money for a champion of the zebradove was even higher. They let me hear one of those champions. They judged those zebradoves a bit like how we judge a European finch (Fringilla coelebs) here in Holland. At schools in Thailand you have even special classes where you learn how to judge the singing quality of those birds.

Just before I left they told me that there are practically no schama's living in the wild [in Singapore]. As a real Schama fan this was a wonderful day. I'm very happy with the schamas I own, because breeding those kind of schamas takes me too much time and is a mission impossible.

Thank you David, William and Jeffrey for  this visit.
Sjef van den Branden (Holland)

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