I’ve been writing quite a bit about the trade in wild-caught African Gray Parrots in recent weeks. In stark contrast to most countries inhabited by parrots, several African nations still allow the capture and sale of wild birds. In others, lax enforcement renders existing laws useless. There has, however, been a recent spate of confiscations in Africa, but not all have turned out well….in one instance, government officials of the Democratic Republic of Congo actually returned hundreds of illegally collected parrots to poachers (please see article below)! Today I’ll highlight some good that may have come from a particularly sad situation.
750 Parrots Die on Plane in South Africa
In December of 2010, 750 wild-caught African Gray Parrots died while on a flight from Johannesburg to Durban, South Africa. According to officials of the airlines involved, 1 Time Airline and Bid Air Cargo, the tragedy spurred an internal investigation into their animal handling practices.
World Parrot Trust Africa, the Wild Bird Trust, and other conservation organizations were called in as consultants. As South Africa had exported 25,000 African Gray parrots in 2009 and imported an additional 5,000 birds (all wild-caught), the effects of any positive changes that result may be very important to the species’ survival.
Early on, the important point was made that regulations designed with captive-bred birds in mind were likely not effective in preventing stress-related deaths among wild parrots.
Another very promising step was the inclusion of zoologists and conservationists in the process. It is expected that doing so will enable airline personnel to more effectively identify protected species and report violations while providing for the welfare of legally shipped animals.
The New Regulations
Some of the planned changes at South African airports include:
Separate animal-handling facilities staffed by specially-trained workers.
Establishment of endangered species data bases and a cooperative reporting system involving CITES, the government of South Africa and other such entities.
Notice (48 hours) prior to the arrival of any animals so that staff may make necessary preparations and research the legality of the shipment.
Routine oversight by the World Parrot Trust, the South African National Zoo and other experts.
It would seem common sense to have such procedures in place in a country that transports millions of animals yearly. Unfortunately, common sense does not always prevail where there is a profit to be made on animals. Hopefully, South Africa will serve as a model for other countries that fail to adequately protect their wild and trade-bound creatures.
World Parrot Trust Videos
African Grey Parrot image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Gray Bird and Snowmanradio