Parrot conservation news is usually dominated by stories covering large, popular species, such as African Greys, Black Palm Cockatoos and Amazons. While interest in these threatened birds is commendable, I also find it useful to focus my reading and writing on less well-known parrots and parrot habitats; for example, please see this article on Echo Parrot Conservation. Today I’d like to address parrot conservation concerns in India.
India’s Parrots and Parakeets
India is home to 12 parrot species, but, overshadowed by the needs of country’s tigers, rhinos and elephants, they have a hard time competing for public attention and funds. Adding to the problem, perhaps, is the popularity of the Indian Ring-Necked Parakeet, a hardy species that has established feral populations in such unlikely places as NYC. The fact that all of India’s wildlife is protected by law furthers the false sense of security.
Most Indian parrots belong to the genus Psittacula, and are collectively known as Ring-Necked Parakeets. Also native to this hub of bird biodiversity (over 1,300 avian species have been recorded) is the amazing Vernal Hanging Parakeet, Loriculus vernalis (please see this article). Most natives are poorly studied; one, the Intermediate Parakeet, has never been seen in the wild, and may be a captive-generated hybrid.
Extent of the Black Market Trade
It has been illegal to collect any native Indian bird since 1990. However, Indian poachers, more organized than those in most other countries, are proving especially difficult to stop. In fact, they seem a breed onto themselves – recently an individual was arrested while trying to kill a rhino…in a zoo!
Studies and confiscations reveal that 8 parrot species are regularly taken from the wild. Of these, the Nicobar, Long-tailed and Derbyan Parakeets are classified as Threatened or Near Threatened by the IUCN. The most widely-collected species is the Alexandrine Parakeet; please see the article below for updates on a recent seizure of Alexandrine Parakeet chicks.
As chicks aged 3-4 months dominate the trade, losses among captured birds are high. Although it is common knowledge that wild-caught adults make poor pets, they too are collected. Most of the contraband parrots are sold in Mumbai, Delhi and other large cities, while others are smuggled out of the country through Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Identification Poster Distributed
In cooperation with several other organizations, TRAFFIC India has recently produced a poster (please see image link below) depicting all of the subcontinent’s parrots. Designed to help people distinguish native, protected species from their imported relatives, the poster will be distributed to conservation, forest and railway authorities, police departments and schools.
Psittacula derbiana image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Doug Janson
Alexandrine Parakeet image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Amir85