Photo: Dana-Allen. The report highlighted dramatic shifts in which wild populations of African greys were targeted, with the forests of West Africa (where populations have collapsed) being replaced by the Congo Basin as the main source of parrots in the trade

NEW RESEARCH HAS highlighted the need for a coordinated global effort to ensure that the ban on the international trade in wild African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus) is adhered to.

Following the move by CITES in October 2016 to end the legal trade of this species, the World Parrot Trust (WPT) has published a comprehensive analysis of the trade in African grey parrots to date. The study revealed that between 1978 and 2014 more than 1.2 million African greys were legally traded, but with the number actually taken from the wild much higher.

Dr Rowan Martin, director of the WPT’s Africa Conservation Programme, who authored the study, said: “The international trade in grey parrots is complex and has been surprisingly dynamic. It’s impossible to single out one factor that has driven the shifting trade, but declining numbers in the wild, trade restrictions – and the lack of them – and global macroeconomic changes have all played a role.”

The study highlights how efforts to protect wild populations in some areas have been undermined due to the ease of laundering African greys through neighbouring countries, as well as how exceeding export quotas and falsifying permits. The CITES ban eliminated those avenues, but the WPT warns that enforcement agencies, airlines and pet owners must remain diligent to the ongoing threat of illegal trafficking.

Cristiana Senni, a specialist with the WPT in the illegal parrot trade, added: “We have been closely monitoring illegal trade for several years and while there are encouraging signs since the CITES ban last year, we are still seeing a worrying number of wild grey parrots being trafficked.

“The Democratic Republic of Congo, where the largest remaining populations are found, is a particularly important source, with most shipments destined for countries in the Middle East and Asia. It’s vital that countries work together to stop the trade before Africa’s forests fall silent.”

The study was published in the ornithological journal Emu.

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