The San Diego Zoo began exhibiting birds of paradise in 1925; over the years, we have housed 19 species. Currently, the Zoo is home to magnificent, superb, and Raggiana birds of paradise. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park has magnificent and superb birds of paradise.
Bird of paradise skins and feathers are used by the native people in New Guinea in their dress and rituals, and they were very important to women’s fashion over a century ago. During the 1880s and 1890s, the bird of paradise was almost wiped out because of the fashion of using the bird's feathers to decorate hats. Up to 50,000 skins were exported each year.
This practice was finally stopped in the 1920s when all birds of paradise were protected from export out of New Guinea. Today, some hunting is allowed but only to meet the ceremonial needs of the native society.
Humans in paradise
Once the isolated, mountainous island of New Guinea was a bird's paradise. Few predators other than native humans lived there. But contact with the industrialized world has brought the threat of extinction. The biggest problem birds of paradise face now comes from large lumber companies that clear all trees from rain forests for cardboard and hardwood products. Currently, the blue bird of paradise Paradisaea rudolphi, Wahnes’s parotia Parotia wahnesi, and MacGregor’s bird of paradise Macgregoria pulchra are vunerable.
We hope there will still be places in the wild for these avian Romeos to continue their courtship dances!