Success! African Grey Parrots Are Protected From the Wildlife Trade
Conservationists are celebrating a huge victory for African grey parrots, who are now one of the world’s most heavily trafficked birds, with news that world leaders voted to ban the international trade in wild-caught members of their species.
African grey parrots are known for their incredible intelligence that’s on par with a small child, and ability to learn and mimic human speech, but the fascinating qualities that make us want them are causing major problems for these beautiful birds.
African grey parrots are native to east, central and west Africa, but their popularity as pets has caused the suffering of countless individuals who end up in the pet trade, and the demand for them has driven severe declines of their wild counterparts who are taken from their homes.
Their range in the wild has continued to shrink drastically and they’ve been declared locally extinct in some areas. In 2012, they were uplisted to Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and their numbers are still declining.
According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, data from the legal trade shows that more than 1.3 million African grey parrots were exported from range states between 1975 and 2013, but an average of 40-60 percent died during transport, which puts the real estimate for the total number captured closer to 2-3 million over just the past 40 years.
Concerns about taking unsustainable numbers from the wild, high death rates for those captured and a market for them that is plagued with fraud and misidentification of wild-caught birds has led to concerns that if what’s happening to them continues, it may push them to the brink, along with increasing calls to ban their trade.
“Fraud and corruption have enabled traffickers to vastly exceed current quotas and continue to harvest unsustainable numbers of African grey parrots from Congo’s forests to feed the illegal trade. Banning the trade will make it easier for law enforcement agencies to crack down on the poachers and smugglers, and give the remaining wild populations some much-needed breathing space,” said Dr. Colman O Criodain, Global Wildlife Policy Manager for the World Wildlife Fund.
Fortunately, their plight has captured the attention of the global conservation community causing both the legal and illegal trade to push for greater protection for them.
Advocates for these birds have been working to support a proposal to increase protection for them that was being considered at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP17 ) in Johannesburg, South Africa.
They’ve gotten widespread public support– more than 77,000 people signed a Care2 petition urging member nations to act. Samantha Jane Bryant, the author of the petition, worked with the World Parrot Trust to help deliver the signatures to various parties at CITES. Bryant was told by the World Parrot Trust that the signatures were a “huge boon” for their cause.
Now, advocates all over are celebrating a huge win with a vote that moved African grey parrots from Appendix II to Appendix I, which bans their international commercial trade.
“If this bird could talk ― and it certainly can ― the African grey parrot would say thank you,” Susan Lieberman, VP of International Policy at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and head of the WCS delegation at CITES, said in a statement. “Now with the protection of Appendix I, and the enhanced enforcement that is needed, the voice of the African grey parrot will not be silenced across the great forests of Africa.”
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