Action needed on Congo parrot trade

Pressure mounts on both national government and international authorities to stem tide as conservationists fear for future of African greys.

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Trapping of African grey parrots in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is completely unsustainable and could lead to serious population declines in some parts of the country, according to conservationists.

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John Hart, of the DRC-based Lukuru Foundation, said that at least 12,000-18,000 birds are probably being taken out of the wild every year from eastern Congo.

That compares with an annual export quota under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of just 5,000 parrots for the whole of the DRC.

In addition, African greys are also being taken in other provinces in the centre and east of DRC, and numbers have been greatly reduced by trappers in Équateur in the north-west.

According to Rowan Martin, of the World Parrot Trust, the EU brought in a permanent ban on importing wild-caught birds into member states in 2007, and this – together with action by CITES – reduced the level of trade in species such as the African grey.

“But since then, there has been a moderate increase in imports to the Middle East and also the Far East,” Martin said. There will be pressure on CITES member states to take action at its conference next year, he added.

Hart said that the Lukuru Foundation had documented the shipping of 6,300 African greys from two towns in eastern DRC in just four months this year.

“Taking the observed mortality rates [45-65 per cent] into account, we can state with certainty that this represents at least 12,000 birds removed from the wild,” Hart said. “Any way you look at it, these numbers are terrifying.”

While putting the African grey onto Appendix I of CITES (and so making all exports illegal) would help, it would not on its own completely eliminate trapping. Just as important, he said, was for provincial authorities to enforce existing government laws that regulate the trapping of parrots.

Find out more about the trade in African grey parrots

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World Parrot Trust