AboutZoos, Since 2008


Grey par­rots in peril due to wildlife traf­fick­ing, fuelling the ille­gal pet trade

pub­lished 28 Novem­ber 2017 | mod­i­fied 07 Decem­ber 2018

Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Soci­ety (WCS) has released footage of res­cued African grey par­rots from the Repub­lic of Congo where thou­sands were des­tined for the ille­gal pet trade. The par­rots — many of which were injured — were con­fis­cated from wildlife traf­fick­ers by rangers and are being held in a res­cue facil­ity con­structed and main­tained by WCS.

grey parrot in perilA grey par­rot (Psit­ta­cus eritha­cus) cap­tured and ready to be banded at the reha­bil­i­ta­tion facil­ity con­structed by WCS locally in the Repub­lic of Congo. Here the par­rots are taken care of and pre­pared to be released back into the wild.
Image still from the footage released by WCS.

Wildlife traf­fick­ers catch the par­rots in glue traps some­times by the hun­dreds. Con­ser­va­tion­ists esti­mate an astound­ing 20 par­rots die for every one that makes it into a pet store. Prices on the ille­gal mar­ket for wild par­rots have quin­tu­pled over the last year lead­ing to an explo­sion of trafficking.

A team of vet­eri­nar­i­ans and ani­mal care staff from the Bronx Zoo are bring­ing the res­cued par­rots back to health. Many par­rots have already suc­cumbed to their injuries or have died from ill­ness or stress. But almost 900 have been suc­cess­fully repa­tri­ated into the wild, with more released every day.

WCS con­structed a reha­bil­i­ta­tion facil­ity to take care of the par­rots so they can be released back into the wild, with a sec­ond facil­ity to open soon. Vets and bird depart­ment staff from WCS’s Bronx Zoo recently trav­elled to Congo to help pro­vided exper­tise on the par­rots’ care. In addi­tion, WCS has part­nered with the Con­golese gov­ern­ment to increase patrols around traf­fick­ing routes and launch more inves­ti­ga­tions into traf­fick­ing net­works. A spe­cial cam­paign has been set up to sup­port these efforts.

It was heart­break­ing to see so many injured par­rots strug­gling to stay alive.

David Oehler, Cura­tor for Ornithol­ogy with WCS’s Bronx Zoo.

The WCS Congo vet­eri­nary staff is mak­ing heroic efforts to save as many par­rots as pos­si­ble, and we were hon­oured to pro­vide our exper­tise and assis­tance,” said Oehler.

WCS says the par­rots were prob­a­bly des­tined for the neigh­bour­ing Demo­c­ra­tic Repub­lic of Congo, where they would even­tu­ally be smug­gled to key mar­kets in Europe and the Mid­dle East.

Last year, WCS, our gov­ern­ment part­ners, and other NGOs suc­cess­fully advo­cated hav­ing the African grey par­rot trans­ferred from Appen­dix II to Appen­dix I of the Con­ven­tion on Inter­na­tional Trade in Endan­gered Species (CITES) at the CITES meet­ing in Johan­nes­burg. Now that the species is in Appen­dix I, all inter­na­tional com­mer­cial trade is pro­hib­ited. But with­out proper enforce­ment, smug­gling con­tin­ues, and unscrupu­lous traf­fick­ers con­tinue to reap profits.

The issue of ille­gal trade from Congo to DRC is being dis­cussed at the CITES Stand­ing Com­mit­tee that meets in Geneva as of 27 Novem­ber through 1 Decem­ber. The WCS pol­icy state­ment on the Nov. 2017 meet­ing of the CITES Stand­ing Com­mit­tee can be found here.

The grey par­rot (Psit­ta­cus eritha­cus) has expe­ri­enced sig­nif­i­cant pop­u­la­tion declines through­out its range in West, Cen­tral and East Africa. It is extremely rare or locally extinct in Benin, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tan­za­nia and Togo. Its con­ser­va­tion sta­tus has been clas­si­fied as Endan­gered by the IUCN Red List of Threat­ened Species. This once very abun­dant species of the forests of West, Cen­tral, and East Africa is unfor­tu­nately now threat­ened by out of con­trol inter­na­tional trade. CITES Appen­dix I, and strong enforce­ment by all coun­tries, is crit­i­cal to stop­ping this ille­gal trade.

In Ghana alone, African grey par­rot pop­u­la­tions are esti­mated to have declined by 9099 per­cent and in many other parts of their range, forests that were once full of their “music” are now eerily quiet.

Traf­fick­ers are vac­u­um­ing up African grey par­rots from Africa’s forests,” said Emma Stokes, WCS Regional Direc­tor for Cen­tral Africa “This heart­break­ing footage should serve as a wake-​up call to any prospec­tive buy­ers of par­rots to avoid them unless they come from a highly rep­utable dealer and you are absolutely cer­tain they were bred in cap­tiv­ity and not taken from the wild.”

(Source: WCS news release, 14.11.2017)

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