The birds were believed to have been destined for sale in Cameroon’s capital Yaoundé when they were intercepted in the town of Djoum by the Ministère des Forêts et de la Faune (MINFOF), which was acting on advice from experts from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).
Footage obtained by conservation charity ZSL reveals the distressing conditions in which the birds were being transported. In fact, many parrots found in these conditions have not survived.
“Despite having the highest legal protection in Cameroon, grey parrots are facing extinction due to poaching,” explains Samuel Nebaneh, ZSL’s Cameroon law enforcement co-ordinator.
“The way these birds are taken from the wild is very cruel; poachers use parrots they have previously captured as lures, tethering the birds beside branches covered in glue. Wild parrots, who are naturally sociable, fly down to investigate the newcomers. Once stuck they can’t escape and are then packed into crates, often without food or water. Many do not survive.”
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Due to wildlife trafficking, the future of the African grey parrot in the wild looks bleak. Although data on the parrots in Cameroon is poor, in nearby Ghana their numbers are thought to have fallen by as much as 99% since 1992.
As well as being illegally sold into the pet market in Asia, the birds are often also desired locally: “Their red tail feathers are used in religious ceremonies, and their heads in local rituals because people incorrectly believe that, since parrots are so good at mimicking human voices, they can cure speech impediments,” says Nebaneh.
Although reducing or eliminating desire for the African grey parrot in these markets would undoubtedly help their population numbers to make a good comeback, capturing traffickers and coming down hard on them when they are caught may go some way to deterring those working in the trade.
The individual found in possession of the parrots awaits trail and, if convicted, could face a significant fine and 3 years in prison.
Meanwhile, the eight rescued African grey parrots have hope for a brighter future: they will be cared for by MINFOF’s eco-guards until they have recovered from their ordeal, before being released back into the forests from which they were taken.