The EU Ban on Trade in Wild Birds
Before 2005, European countries were the biggest importers of wild birds. The various species mainly emanated from West Africa. Many of the birds later escaped into the wild and threatened local species. But in 2005 the EU introduced a temporary ban on the import of these birds in response to the threat of an avian flu epidemic. The ban was made permanent two years later and the results have been dramatic.
A recent study has revealed that the EU ban on the trade in wild birds has helped to reduce the global business by 90%. Latin America is now the main source of imported birds.
Trade in Wild Birds Collapses
Prior to the ban, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain accounted for two thirds of all wild birds sold across world. The picture is very different now. The ban has eliminated much of the demand for the birds and so trade has collapsed.
From Songbirds to Parrots
Latin America has replaced Africa as the main source of wild birds. Most of the birds exported from this region supply the demand in Mexico and the United States. The good news is that the overall number of birds being traded has reduced to around 130,000 each year. The type of birds being traded has changed. It used to be songbirds from Africa which were in the greatest demand but it is now parrots which dominate the market. The trade in songbirds has reduced by 80%.
Parakeets in Europe
Parakeets are now extremely popular and traders have found new markets for them across the globe. Parakeets, however, have also been shipped to the UK from Latin America and many birds have found their way into the wild. There are several colonies of the birds now established in this country. Across Europe parrots have caused damage to local ecosystems, driving out indigenous birds and damaging crops. There are over 100 cities in Europe where parakeets have established themselves.
The trade in wild birds threatens wildlife in both the country of origin and the importing nation. A research group called Parrotnet has been set up to assess the scale of the problem. In the UK, ring-necked parakeets which are the descendants of escaped and released birds threaten vineyards and fruit farms. The authors of the recent study believe that the EU will eventually end the problem of invasive birds. Efforts to tackle the issue are being helped by a reduction in new birds being imported to the region.
The study illustrated that some of the supply chains for the birds were re-established following the EU ban but many were not. It is important to understand the dynamics of these supply chains if the trade in wildlife is to be properly controlled.
A reduction in trade aids biodiversity in the exporting nations whilst reducing the danger of invasive birds in the importing countries. It is crucial that collectors and those wishing to keep birds as pets invest in animals which have been captive-bred.