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Undercover “Sting” in Africa Nets 1,000 Parrots, Ivory and Cat Skins

Conservation efforts in Central Africa have long been plagued by heavily-armed poachers, corrupt governments and under-funded enforcement officers.  However, a recent (December, 2010) undercover operation involving the governments of 4 countries offers hope that things may be changing for the better.

Parrots Under Pressure

African Gray Parrots are still legally and illegally collected in many of the 23 countries in which they are found, and are everywhere in decline.  While some nations prohibit the taking of wild birds, in Angola and other nations there are no protections. 

Lax enforcement and even outright government involvement in smuggling is typical in many areas.  A short time ago, Democratic Republic of Congo officials returned 523 confiscated African Grays to the dealer who had illegally captured them – this after several organizations, including the Columbus Zoo, had participated in the rescue (please see article below).

A New Approach

The Last Great Ape Organization took action by soliciting officials from 4 Central African nations to participate in a “buy and bust” operation.  The tactic has proven surprisingly effective, as confiscated parrots and products have remained in custody, and penalties have been meted out.  In fact, 16 smugglers arrested in Gabon have been denied bail – a first for that country.  The ivory they had collected was bound for Nigeria, a common destination for black market wildlife products.

In Cameroon, 1,000 African Gray Parrots and the shells of protected turtles were recovered.  Significantly, a police officer was arrested for allowing the contraband to continue its journey upon payment of a bribe.

Leopard and lion skins, elephant tusks and ivory products were seized in the Central African Republic.

Cautious Optimism?

Shells for saleIt is hoped that word of this large scale, well-organized operation, conducted with government cooperation, will signal to smugglers that the status quo has changed.

However, conservationists in the area caution that the overall situation is still dismal.  In addition to the outrageous behavior of some governments (please see article below), there remains the fact that tremendous damage has already been done to the region’s wildlife.  Over 25% of all adult African Gray Parrots are trapped annually, Black Rhinos are gone from Cameroon, Elephants are extinct in Sierra Leone and a mere handful remain in Senegal – the status of unstudied species is impossible to determine.  Most frightening is the fact that this is occurring despite decades of local and international protection.



Further Reading

Parrot Conservation Setback 

The Columbus Zoo Aids Confiscated African Gray Parrots

African Gray Parrot Declines in Central Africa

Shells image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Richard Ling

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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