On Nest to Goodness
Contemporary observers noted that Swiftlets were highly adaptable creatures who seemed to prefer living in urban areas and readily built nests in the upper floors of city homes and apartment buildings. Eventually this led some homeowners to abandon their homes entirely, finding accommodation elsewhere while Swiftlets colonized their former abodes.
The next logical step was to construct purpose-built, multi-story structures known as “ruko”.
These Swiftlet-friendly constructs typically feature many small, circular “portholes” in the walls to facilitate ventilation and grids of unfinished wood affixed to the ceilings that offer the Swiftlets prime spots to build their nests. Note the razor wire strung around the outside of the edifice above: goldmines have to be protected, after all!
Ruko owners maintain the buildings while providing fresh drinking and bathing water for the occupants, who return the favor by consuming an uncountable number of flying insects during their daily sorties.
(image via: House of Bird’s Nest)
“They always return,” said one ruko owner. “We provide them with safe accommodation and bathing facilities, just like a hotel. They leave us during the day, just as would a hotel guest, but they always come back to us.”
The ruko system has become so effective, efficient, and above all profitable in recent years that some towns and cities in northern Sumatra, Indonesia, have been virtually transformed. The city of Kisaran, for example, is home to approximately 70,000 people but roughly a quarter of the buildings in the downtown area (about 300!) are rukos.
Though never threatened, Edible Nest Swiftlets are lately enjoying a population boom directly encouraged by their human sponsors while disease-spreading winged insects are in decline. Local incomes are rising thanks to both the Bird’s Nest trade and employment in the construction industry.
(image via: [email protected])
On the downside, area forests are under pressure as their wood is in great demand as a building material for rukos. Indeed, the overall environmental equation isn’t exclusively positive but it certainly be a whole lot worse. Just look at those rhinos, tigers and sharks… if you can find one.