Animal Aid

FROM RAINFOREST TO RETAIL - CITES and the Bird Trade

Stafford Bird Fair, Spring 2001

In this final part of From Rainforest to Retail - a special Animal Aid report - we look at EU imports of CITES listed birds, and conclude this special report.

Cruelty and suffering are inevitable features of the wild-caught bird trade, but the trade is also responsible for driving species towards extinction.

The main causes of bird declines and extinction are generally accepted as habitat loss and capture of individuals for world trade. The UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) aims to control the trade in listed (endangered and near endangered) species and monitor trade in less vulnerable species (to know when they too become endangered).

CITES came into force in the UK on 1st July 1975 and is now managed by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA). It has three levels of control:

  • Appendix I includes all species threatened with extinction, and bans trade for commercial purposes in these species.
  • Appendix II is for threatened species but allows commercial trading under strict monitoring, if the exporting country is satisfied that any trade is not detrimental to the future survival of that species.
  • Appendix III allows countries to list their populations of any given species so that they can monitor international trade in them.

Table 3 shows CITES listed birds who were imported into the EU in 1999. They are the same species as are sold in Focus stores. Although many of the species listed under Appendix II are not in any immediate danger of extinction, continued trafficking could affect their survival as a species.

In 1999, CITES recorded a total European import tally of 1,669,807 individuals of 465 species. However, it is important to bear in mind that this list does not include all live bird imports because the majority of imports are not regulated and documented under CITES. Most wild-caught birds now arrive in Britain indirectly via EU countries. Most birds are imported into Germany and the Low Countries, from where it is a simple step to move them by van into Britain through the ports or the Channel Tunnel. Birds imported into the UK via Europe will not show up in any British statistics.

Table 3: Imports of Cites Listed Wild Birds - European Community 1999
Species Appendix Total Receiving Country Number
African grey parrot
(Psittacus erithacus)
II 33,341 Austria
Belgium
Germany
Denmark
Spain
Finland
France
UK
Greece
Italy
Netherlands
Portugal
Sweden
10
5520
1015
6
6216
1
3797
2142
797
25
9410
4392
9
Fischer's lovebird
(Agapornis fischeri)
II 63,867 Belgium
Germany
Spain
France
UK
Greece
Italy
Netherlands
Portugal
800
302
26810
1142
3
3777
3305
14718
13010
Peach-faced lovebird
(Agapornis roseicollis)
II 71,588 Belgium
Germany
Spain
France
UK
Greece
Italy
Netherlands
Portugal
1102
5
40684
1261
10
3541
2214
3285
19486
Yellow-collared lovebird
(Agapornis personatus)
II 33,720 Belgium
Germany
Spain
France
UK
Greece
Italy
Netherlands
Portugal
400
101
14426
1062
1
2459
1116
1322
12833
Yellow-fronted Amazon
(Amazona ochrocephala)
II 1,326 Austria
Belgium
Germany
Spain
France
UK
Greece
Italy
Netherlands
Portugal
1
32
46
401
2
55
54
3
514
218
Blue-crowned conure
(Aratinga acuticaudata)
II 3,247 Germany
Spain
UK
Portugal
Sweden
155
2838
200
53
1
Brown-throated conure
(Aratinga pertinax)
II 1,071 Belgium
Germany
Spain
Greece
Netherlands
Portugal
68
1
607
61
257
77
Maroon-bellied conure
(Pyrrura frontalis)
II 60 Spain
UK
Greece
Netherlands
30
2
8
20
Monk parakeet
(Myiopsitta monachus)
II 10,028 Germany
Spain
UK
Portugal
26
8600
302
1100
Green singing finch
(Serinus mozambicus)
III 197,230 Belgium
Germany
Spain
France
Greece
Italy
Netherlands
Portugal
53630
13860
27675
9415
900
32883
34643
24224
Zebra waxbill
(Amandava subflava)
III 54,211 Belgium
Germany
Spain
France
Greece
Italy
Netherlands
Portugal
16464
6052
6950
3600
700
6550
7545
6350
Orange-cheeked waxbill
(Estrilda melpoda)
III 81,308 Belgium
Germany
Spain
France
Greece
Italy
Netherlands
Portugal
24296
5750
12300
5700
300
12850
5812
14300
Black-rumped waxbill
(Estrilda troglodytes)
III 94,774 Belgium
Germany
Spain
France
Greece
Italy
Netherlands
Portugal
27984
3300
18000
6350
400
13100
4200
21440
Black & white mannikin
(Lonchura bicolor)
III 13,779 Belgium
Germany
Spain
Greece
Italy
Netherlands
Portugal
4320
1000
975
300
260
1974
4950
Bronze-winged mannikin
(Lonchura cucullata)
III 18,845 Belgium
Germany
Spain
France
Italy
Netherlands
Portugal
2844
1150
2900
1800
2750
460
6950
Magpie mannikin
(Lonchura fringilloides)
III 7,295 Belgium
Germany
Spain
Italy
Netherlands
Portugal
1919
200
860
130
1236
2950

Conclusion

Focus has established itself as a major UK dealer in exotic wild animals. However, the public, their customers and many of their staff, are clearly unaware of the whole story about the origin of some of the birds sold by the company. Focus may say that any sale of birds caught in the wild, if proved, would be an unwitting lapse from the stated company policy. That may be correct. However, the failure to identify the problem demonstrates naivety and plain ignorance of a degree that should automatically disqualify it from playing any part in the exotic pet trade.

If, on the other hand, Focus continues to sell animals that it is persuaded by the evidence are wild-caught, then it will struggle to justify its activities. Tremendous work carried out by the Environmental Investigation Agency and other groups in recent years means that there has been a great deal of publicity about the cruelty and corruption involved in the wild bird trade.

Britain does not allow an international pet trade in our native wild birds and yet our local DIY stores are selling bird species originating in other countries! These 'exotics' deserve exactly the same protection as do British species. How would we feel if populations of our own native birds were being exploited to boost the pet trade in other countries?

Animal Aid will continue its campaign against Focus until they cease the sale of ALL their animals. We will ask the public to boycott Focus, Great Mills and Wickes stores and make it known to the company why they have taken their custom elsewhere. For the foreseeable future, Focus will come under increasing pressure to stick to paint not pets.

Written and researched by Elaine Toland. Additional key research by Peter Robinson, Consultant Ornithologist. The Environmental Investigation Agency were instrumental in exposing the wild-caught bird trade and continue to campaign vigorously to halt the illegal trade in many other endangered species.

vigorously to halt the illegal trade in many other endangered species.

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