Home | Bird Conservation | 54,000+ Wild Caught Parrots, Cockatoos, others sold as “Captive Bred”

54,000+ Wild Caught Parrots, Cockatoos, others sold as “Captive Bred”

Sulphur crested CockatooAlthough revised airport security procedures have cut down on animal smuggling, wildlife criminals continue to circumvent the law in other ways.  Much as is done with “dirty money”, wild-caught parrots are now being “laundered” and sold as captive bred. A recent TRAFFIC study revealed that, in the past decade, over 54,000 parrots, lories, cockatoos and other birds have been illegally yet openly exported from the Solomon Islands. The audacity of those involved is shocking…for example, 76 Birds of Paradise of 7 species were claimed to have been bred in a single year (I’ve worked with these birds in zoos, and know the difficulties involved – few institutions have been successful). Add to this the ongoing parrot smuggling problems in Africa (please see below) and it’s easy to see why many pet trade species are in dire need of help.

Native Solomon Island Parrots

The Solomon Islands, located east of Papua New Guinea, are home to a host of unique species, many of which are found nowhere else on earth.  According to TRAFFIC’S report (see text below), the mostly wild-caught birds exported in the past decade included 18,444 Yellow-Bibbed Lories, 15,994 Solomon Cockatoos, 8,000+ Eclectus Parrots, and 10,000+ Cardinal and Rainbow Lorries.

Many Solomon Island endemics are poorly studied, and their needs are difficult to meet even in well-funded zoos.  Bird trapping seriously depletes wild populations, especially where, as on the Solomons, re-colonization is not possible. A further consideration is that wild-caught parrots invariably make poor pets. In all likelihood, the 50,000+ exported birds are faring miserably in captivity. 

Colleagues of mine investigated the export of huge numbers of Solomon Island Prehensile-Tailed Skinks years ago. Collecting these arboreal lizards required the felling of trees, and was carried out in conjunction with logging operations. Likewise, capturing young parrots often involves the destruction of valuable nesting trees – a rare commodity even in intact habitats – and other environmental degradation.

Non-Native Birds

The boldness of those involved in the region’s illegal bird trade is surprising.  For example, also included among the exports were 13,000 birds that are not native to the Solomon Islands. These were designated as “captive bred”, but there are no records indicating how the supposed breeding stock reached the Solomons in the first place! If the birds were bred on the Solomon Islands, import permits should have been produced to show that the parents had been legally obtained. The same applies to the outrageous claim that 7 Bird of Paradise species were bred in-country.

The 13,000 non-native birds, mainly obtained from Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, included highly endangered Pesquet’s Parrots and many Chattering Lories.  Amazingly, Lesser Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos were also among the exported birds. This species is listed on CITES Appendix I, and could not be legally sold even if captive bred!

Pesquet’s parrots
In my experience, the ability of criminals to operate so openly usually indicates either government involvement (see African Gray Parrot articles below) or ineffective law enforcement capabilities.  I cannot say if such were at work here, but local wildlife officials did state that they knew of no facilities that could have produced the numbers of birds claimed as captive-bred on the Solomon Islands.

Official Responses

The government of the Solomon Islands suspended trade in native species in 2006.  “Sounds good on paper”…but unfortunately it continues to renew export permits for existing bird suppliers.  The reason given is so that “breeders” can sell-off those birds they have on hand.  But, if the TRAFFIC report is accurate, the birds involved have been, and perhaps are being, illegally taken from the wild!

In response to this and similar studies concerning reptile and amphibian sales, Malaysia has suspended wildlife imports from the Solomon Islands.  Despite TRAFFIC’s urging, Singapore, the other main outlet for the Solomon’s birds, continues to allow imports.

TRAFFIC has requested that CITES launch an investigation, as restrictions imposed by that organization would focus greater attention on the situation.

What’s Next…What Can I Do?

Yellow-bibbed LoriIn addition to assuring that any bird or other animal you purchase or adopt has been captive-bred, please support legitimate conservation organizations in any way possible.  Signing up for email updates from TRAFFIC , CITES and ThatBirdBlog is a great way to stay informed.

Please also post any thoughts or experiences you may have had involving the parrot trade, and be sure to write in for advice if you own or are considering obtaining a parrot or other bird.


Further Reading

Full text of the TRAFFIC report

Conservation Setback: Confiscated African Gray Parrots Returned to Dealer

Sulphur crested Cockatoo image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Snowmanradio
Pesquet’s parrots and Yellow-bibbed Lori image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Snowmanradio


  1. avatar

    Frank, can I post this in my newsletter, Winged Things?
    Send me an email address and I’ll send you a copy. I want to have an ongoing section on conservation issues.

  2. avatar

    Hi Karen,

    Thanks for your interest; I;m happy to have you use the article. I’ll email some further info, Best, Frank

  3. avatar


    I intersted to buy and import many type of parrots from the anothers cuntry in the world
    but i have no idea whos the correct person or company i dealing to.
    1. african grey
    2. shulfur
    3. rosesela
    4. cockatoos
    many many more
    please advice me accordingly

    suhaily bin ambusa
    Mobile No. +60192822887 or +601128622992
    from malaysia
    kuala lumpur

  4. avatar


    Unfortunately I’m not well-equipped to advise you. International trade in parrots is highly regulated by most countries. I suggest checking the regulations controlling exports in the countries that you are interested in, as well as your government’s import regulations. This would give you an idea as to what is and is not possible, legally and financially. After that, you could locate large exporters.

    Best regards, Frank

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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