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Conservation Setback – Confiscated African Grey Parrots Returned to Dealer

African GreyMany countries have placed an outright ban on capturing wild parrots (Mexico, most recently) and, as in the USA, require proof that birds offered for sale have been bred in captivity. Abuses occur, but rarely on the scale exhibited recently in the central African nation of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Major conservation groups are outraged at the behavior of the DRC government, which seems to be in collaboration with parrot smugglers.

Smuggled Birds Seized

On September 18, 2010, 523 wild-caught African Grey Parrots (Psittacus erithacus) were confiscated at the DRC’s Kavumu Airport. The birds, on route to Singapore, were accompanied by forged CITES documents, and were in horrific condition. Twenty-nine were dead, others were tied to each other by one wing, and no food was available.

Despite having no avian facilities and operating on a shoestring budget in a politically unstable region, the Lwiro Primate Center accepted the survivors on 2 hours notice.

The World Parrot Trust appealed for help on the center’s behalf – the support of over 200 persons and organizations allowed for the hiring of 3 veterinarians and the construction of flight cages.

Parrots Set for Release, Until…

Amazingly, 460 of the parrots survived into mid-November, 2010, and 400 were deemed fit for release back into the wild.

Then, on November 22, 2010, the government of the DRC shocked the world conservation community by seizing the birds from the Lwiro Center and returning them to the dealer from whom they had been confiscated! No explanation was given the center’s staff.

The birds were packed back into their original crates, which were in flagrant violation of the standards set by the International Air Transport Association, and shipped to the dealer under CITES documents allowing for 300 birds (when in fact 490 were sent).

My Experience

I was involved in hundreds of animal confiscations during my years working at the Bronx Zoo, and am still on-call on a private basis. I can say that animals are sometimes returned to dealers here in the USA when legal loopholes allow…not, however, where abused animals are concerned, and never, as far as I know, without clear documentation of why such is occurring. While new facts may emerge, at this point the situation in the DRC seems beyond belief.

Dim Prospects for Wild African Greys

Timneh African GreyUnfortunately, this is not an isolated incident – 2,700 African Grey Parrots have been seized in West Africa in the last 3 years, leading experts to estimate that perhaps ¼ of the adult population is trapped yearly. Most of the illegal trade is carried out in the open, utilizing forged documents, which at least suggests some government/regulatory agency cooperation. Please see the article below for more info.

Further Reading

Please see this article for photos of the rescue effort and further details.

African Gray Parrot Conservation Issues

Natural History of the African Gray


African Grey Parrot image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Michael Gwyther-JonesTimneh African Grey Parrot image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Snowmanradio

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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