This month saw the start of a crackdown in the African parrot trade by authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Officials of the central African country seized 523 African Greys at Kavumus regional airport. The birds were on their way to Singapore to joined the illegal wildlife pet trade. When the crates were seized the conditions of transport of the birds were so bad that 29 of them was found dead or died soon afterwords.
After being confiscated by officials the parrots were taken to the Lwiro Primate Sanctuary – about 7 kms away from the airport – which is operated by 3 conservation NGOs: Intitut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature ICCN, Centre de Recherches en Sciences Naturelles, CRSN and a team of international NGOs led by Coopera. While the sanctuary is dedicated to primates and has no facilities for birds, the sanctuary accepted the birds who were in poor condition. The birds had been packed into crates and immobilized by having one wing tied to another bird and it was not known how long it had been since the birds had received food or water.
The numbers of birds that needs to be dealt with is currently overwhelming the facility and they are currently seeking funds and support to help them to look after the birds effectively. “We cannot do this alone,” said Carmen Vidal, manager of Lwiro Sanctuary.
“We didn’t have much warning. We were just told these parrots are coming on Saturday and then they were here. We are doing the best we can. The government institutions, ICCN and CRSN, are doing a great job on law enforcement and the efforts of the DRC government authorities are commendable; we are very pleased that they are taking this strong stand on behalf of wildlife! ”
The World Parrot Trust is currently providing emergency funding and technical help to the facility to help stabilize the parrots. The trust is also working with the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance to help ensure that supplies and support is put in place for the Lwiro Sanctuary as quickly as possible.
“We’re thrilled that the authorities seized this illegal shipment of grey parrots,” stated Dr. James Gilardi, Executive Director of WPT. “This effort sends a powerful signal that they are serious about protecting these birds from trapping. With adequate support, our partners in the DRC should be able to successfully release these birds back to the wild where they belong.”
As many of the parrots were in poor condition and had damaged wings due to the way that they were tied together the Lwiro Primate Sanctuary will need to have ongoing support to get the birds ready to be released back into the wild. Because the sanctuary has no experience with rehabilitating birds there will be considerable costs in building housing facilities and exercise yards to get the birds back into condition for release. Public support for the facilities is being co-ordinated by the World Parrot Trust FlyFree programme.
This is the first confiscation made by the authorities of the DRC and it is hoped that continued action will be taken against traders in African Grey Parrots in the country. The Congo African Grey is the largest of the two subspecies of African Greys (Psittacus erithacus). In 2007 the species was upgraded on the IUCN Red List to Near Threatened primarily because of the pet trade. It is thought that up to 20% of the current global population is caught each year for the wildlife trade. The new listing means that all trade needs to be certified by CITES and the birds seized in the DRC had forged CITES certificates.