Wild-caught African grey parrots banned from cagebird trade

The popularity of Grey Parrot as a cagebird has seen the species become much depleted in the wild. Photo: Eli Duke (commons.wikimedia.org).
The popularity of Grey Parrot as a cagebird has seen the species become much depleted in the wild. Photo: Eli Duke (commons.wikimedia.org).
An international wildlife conservation conference has resulted in the banning of the trafficking and sale of threatened grey parrots, if they originate from the wild.

From 24 September to 5 October 2016, government representatives from around the world descended upon Johannesburg, South Africa, for a vital wildlife conference that has helped secure the future of hundreds of species threatened by the demands of international trade.

The 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) was the latest meeting between the 183 countries across the globe that are voluntarily bound by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). CITES is an international agreement between governments that aims to ensure that the international trade of plants and animals, for any use, won’t endanger the long-term survival of the species.

CoP17 was the first such meeting since 2013, and it was described as a ‘make or break’ conference for several globally threatened species in need of greater protection.

Among those birds were the two species of grey parrot, the familiar sociable, intelligent and brilliant mimic of the human voice, which is a very popular pet bird. Unfortunately, these assets have also made them some of the world’s most trafficked birds, with between two and three million individuals plucked from the forests of West and Central Africa over the last 40 years. Often between 50-90 per cent of captured birds don’t survive the journey.

However, at CoP17, the Parties (aka countries) voted to support the motion to increase the level of protection of the two species from Appendix II to Appendix I, the highest level available. This means international trade of wild-caught grey parrots is banned, although it does not affect the trade in captive-bred individuals. Pet owners are not affected, although if they wish to emigrate with their bird, they will need to apply for a ‘pet passport’.

African Grey Parrot is considered by CITES as one species, but by BirdLife International as two: Timneh Parrot from central Côte d’Ivoire westwards and Grey Parrot from eastern Côte d’Ivoire east across Central Africa. Both species are covered by the CITES decision, and both are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, although both currently under consideration for 'uplisting' to Endangered.

The motion was supported by the European Union, North America and a number of West African states who have lost much of their populations of grey parrots. Most notable among these was Nigeria, which has banned the trade or transport of either species in their territory for a number of years now.

As the official authority for birds for the IUCN Red List, BirdLife played a key behind-the-scenes role in this success by providing technical input to TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network, enabling them to adopt a clear position in support of the uplisting.