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The plight of parrots
In the wild they fly many miles every day, spend a lot of time socializing,
foraging for food, chewing wood and preening themselves.
Parrots are as intelligent and sensitive as they are beautiful. But, as more
and more end up in pet shops, the threats to them loom large.
Illegal wildlife trade. Grey parrots, native to equatorial Africa, seized at customs.
Among the variety of wildlife species that enter the pet trade, highly
sought after are members of a family that are being, virtually, loved to
death. The parrot family.
From the smallest lovebirds to the largest macaws, huge numbers are
from the wild and exported to markets to satisfy consumer demand for avian
pets. The more exotic the better!
In the UAE too, parrots are reported from pet shops; and these are
enthusiastically purchased by people. Only recently, a popular daily carried
a feature in which owners of African grey parrots (a particular favourite
that is an endangered species) raved about their pets, their intelligence
and entertainment values.
Worldwide decline in wild populations
The high demand for pets is causing a dramatic decline in wild parrots
worldwide. Habitat destruction is another factor responsible. The IUCN Red
List of Threatened Species contains 94 parrot species that are considered
vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered with extinction.
That is why all species of parrot are protected under CITES (Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) with the
exception of grass parakeets and falcon parakeets. Consequently, it is
illegal under international and local laws to buy or sell parrot species
with out necessary permits.
Death during capture and transit
While much wildlife trade is legal and follows CITES regulations, there is a
persistent illegal trade, particularly in wildlife such as rare parrots and
other exotic birds. Each year, hundreds and thousands of parrots are
imported and exported to supply the demand for pets. Often plucked from
their nests and smuggled across borders, many do not make it to their
destination because of inhumane conditions, dying of starvation or cruel
treatment en route.
Some smugglers techniques are particularly cruel! Birds are taped to
hubcaps, drugged, stuffed under clothing with beaks taped shut, and hidden
in wooden crates in the midst of other cargo with improper ventilation; and
certainly no cooling.
High mortality during trapping, shipping and quarantine means that trade
impacts far more wild birds than the numbers that actually end up for sale.
Not such happy pets
Parrots have very intense social bonds in the wild. They are flock animals
and survive by staying with their flock. These social needs remain even in
captivity and they, therefore, require a lot of attention and stimulation.
Many wild caught parrots retain their wild traits and may have been sold and
resold to a number of owners.
Several that are now kept as pets, have not been domesticated through years
of selective breeding but, instead, are only a generation or two removed
from their wild ancestors.
Because parrots are thought to be sensitive, with a need for stability, they
can have behavioural problems when not in an optimal environment (the wild).
This may result in fear biting, screaming or even self mutilation such as
picking out all their feathers.
Responsible consumers shouldn't buy wild-caught parrots and parakeets for
private ownership. Buying these only encourages an illegal trade that is
decimating parrot populations.