By Steve Boyes
Researchers in the field estimate that 45-65% of wild-caught African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus erithacus) die before arrival at markets and quarantine facilities in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Terese Hart, Director of the TL2 Project (www.bonoboincongo.com), clarifies that trappers lose an average of 25%, local buyers declare a 10-40% mortality rate, and air transport to distant markets can kill up to 10% per shipment. Why are these losses acceptable? A local trapper gets only $15-25 per grey parrot. Local traders sell these parrots for $50-100 to international import/export specialists. In South Africa, for example, grey parrots can sell for over $300 in pet stores. Yes, we need better research on this problem, but it is clear that conservation action is necessary. Are individual grey parrots simply not valuable enough for local trappers and buyers to invest in better care? Do the syndicates, the “African Grey Mafia”, care about these losses or does this process simply get rid of the old and the weak? Hundreds of thousands of wild grey parrots have been unsustainably removed from the wild in the last decade. Now one of the most populous pets on earth and threatened with extinction in the wild, the grey parrot needs urgent conservation action…[sic\
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is failing to protect grey parrots from local extinctions. CITES export quotas for grey parrots are still based on limited, out-dated census data from too few sample sites. We have now allowed grey parrots to be among the most traded wild birds on CITES Appendix II for several decades without any concrete data to support “harvesting” quotas. South Africa requested a Non-Detrimental Findings (NDF) report on the trade in wild-caught African grey parrots from the Ministry of Environment in the DRC, but no such study has been undertaken and trade continues.
Between 2007 and 2011 just over 60,000 wild-caught African grey parrots were recorded in exports from the DRC, South Africa, Congo-Brazzaville, Senegal, Guinea, Namibia and Bahrain. Exports of captive-bred grey parrots from just South Africa, Bahrain and Senegal over the same period total over 120,000! Why are we threatening wild populations if we are able to supply two-thirds of global exports with captive-bred stock? The answer: Most wild-caught grey parrots in international trade are controlled by global syndicates that use these parrots as breeding stock in ‘bird mills” that produce thousands of pre-weaned chicks for export to both established and emerging markets. More....