African Grey Parrot Conservation
The African grey parrot is a much admired and much loved bird and it isn’t difficult to see why. Its striking grey and red plumage, its intelligence and its ability to speak make it a fascinating animal and an extremely popular pet. Beauty and intelligence will always be a compelling combination but it is one which is endangering the future of these truly amazing birds.
In the Wild
The African grey has now become an endangered species. In some areas their numbers have declined by a disturbing 99%. This rapid decline in the population is in part due to the destruction of the parrot’s natural habitat. However, more areas of tropical rain forest are now protected and the management of the forests has been improved. Education programmes have been successful in reducing the number of wild birds which are shot by farmers. The greatest threat to these beautiful birds is now the pet trade.
The EU and the US were once two of the biggest markets for the parrots but both have now banned the import of wild caught birds. This has helped to considerably reduce the demand for the wild-caught parrots. Captive breeding has comfortably met the demands of the pet trade in both countries and so has proven that the capture of wild birds is completely unnecessary. But they continue to be captured and many specimens tragically die in transit.
Ban International Trade
The World Parrot Trust is now calling for a ban on the international trade in wild Grey parrots and has launched a petition. But some bird breeders are against a ban. They believe that it would make their own lives more difficult as exporting their birds would involve more paperwork. This seems rather short sighted as surely the impact of the additional beurorcracy would be balanced by or perhaps outweighed by an increased demand for their birds. Their businesses would no longer be undermined by the prevalence of cheaper wild-caught specimens.
Some of the nations which are most important for the conservation of African grey parrots, including Gabon, Angola and Nigeria, are backing the proposed new listing for a trade ban. Hopefully other countries who are members of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) treaty will not allow themselves to be influenced by the lobbying from bird breeders.
This month’s CITES conference could be crucial to the future of the beautiful African grey parrot. A ban on international trade will not stop the illegal shipment of the birds but it will go a long way towards guaranteeing their future in the wild.