A new undercover investigation has shown how the big business of exotic bird trafficking is plunging the endangered parrot population further toward extinction.
The investigation, carried out by non-profit animal welfare group World Animal Protection (WAP), revealed the horrific practice of poaching that African grey parrots undergo as their feathers and wings are hacked off before they are tied up, bound in glue, and used as bait to attract other birds.
Poachers rely on the sociable nature of the parrots to draw other wild birds into huge nets or branches coated in glue, where they are then brutally handled by poachers, who saw off the feathers they use to fly in order to prevent escape.
Three-quarters of the African grey parrots – which are illegally seized from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, and Nigeria – often die of starvation or disease while they are shipped off to their destinations in the lucrative pet markets of Middle Eastern and Asian countries.
“The journey they endure is perilous; they are stuffed in crates, often unable to breathe properly or move and most of these wild animals will sadly suffocate, starve or succumb to diseases in transit,” the group said in a statement.
The conservationist group has accused Turkish Airlines of allowing its aircraft to be used to ship the birds from Africa to other countries. According to the group, one flight from Kinshasha to Kuwait via Istanbul resulted in the death of 60 birds.
In 2017, the airliner signed a declaration at Buckingham Palace pledging to support moves to combat illegal wildlife poaching, including promising to halt any trafficking of poached animals.
However, WAP claims that Turkish Airlines is performing insufficient checks of cargo and has failed to train staff, allowing for poachers to exploit the airline to fuel its multi-billion dollar trade.
The internet has boosted traffickers’ ability to market their illegal bounty. WAP claims that some poachers have even bragged about their African grey parrot shipments on social media.
African #greyparrot populations are plummeting – and so are our prices! Delivered by @TurkishAirlines. Freshly ripped from the wild and illegally traded overseas, this isn’t your bog-standard bird. Get your own slice of the wild NOW: https://t.co/dztQ94qgmM #wildlifeFORSALE pic.twitter.com/cj7v0gXCiR
— World Animal Protection (@MoveTheWorld) February 4, 2019
The parrots are highly sought-after by pet buyers due to their high intelligence and ability to mimic, but WAP said that both the permitted and illicit trade in the wild parrots has caused a precipitous drop in the bird population.
Up to three million birds have been poached over the course of 40 years, while the global population is estimated to have plunged by 79 percent in a mere 50 years. In Ghana, the wild population of African greys has collapsed by 90 to 99 percent.
In the press release, WAP campaign leader Cassandra Koenen said:
“Poaching animals for the exotic pet trade is happening on an industrial scale with devastating consequences. Worse still is that the illegal and illicit elements of the trade are often aided by government corruption and inadequate enforcement.
Animals suffer at every step of the journey destined to people’s homes: from capture to handling, transport, holding, breeding, sale and the lifetime of captivity in the home.”