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Grey areas: temporal and geographical dynamics of international trade of Grey and Timneh Parrots (Psittacus erithacus and P. timneh) under CITES

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International trade in wild birds is a driver of biodiversity loss, species invasions and the spread of diseases. Grey and Timneh Parrots (Psittacus erithacus and P. timneh) have been among the most frequently traded of all birds listed in the Appendices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and were recently categorised as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Records of international trade, available on the CITES trade database, were used to establish geographical trends in imports and exports of Grey and Timneh Parrots since 1975. Patterns of trade varied dramatically over time, with key trading partnerships changing frequently. Net exports of over 1.2 million wild-sourced parrots were reported, the majority of which were exported to North America prior to 1992 and Europe prior to 2005. Recently, there has been a rapid rise in exports of captive-bred parrots to parts of Asia, notably countries in the Arabian Peninsula. The majority of captive-bred Grey and Timneh Parrots originate from South Africa, which has at times also been the largest importer of wild-sourced parrots. Patterns of trade are considered in the context of the changing economic, cultural, governance, and biological circumstances to understand the potential drivers of major shifts and identify research needs and interventions to control trade. ARTICLE HISTORY
International trade networks of live Psittacus parrots during three phases of trade (a) 1975-1992, (b) 1993-2005, and (c) 2006-2014. Networks are based only on trade links which account for more than 800 specimens over each period. Nodes represent individual countries, with node labels indicating the UN two-letter code for each country (country names given below). Node colour indicates the geopolitical region to which each country belongs and node size indicates connectedness (size proportional to the natural log of the number of direct trade links). Arrows indicate the direction of trade flows. Arrow width is proportional to the numbers of specimens traded and arrow colour indicates the source (captive-bred, wild-sourced or other). Country codes: AE = United Arab Emirates, AM = Armenia, AT = Austria, BD = Bangladesh, BE = Belgium, BH = Bahrain, CA = Canada, CD = Congo, the Democratic Republic of the, CF = Central African Republic, CG = Congo, Republic of, CH = Switzerland, CI = Cote d'Ivoire, CM = Cameroon, CN = China, CZ = Czech Republic, DE = Germany, ES = Spain, FR = France, GB = United Kingdom, GH = Ghana, GN = Guinea, GQ = Equatorial Guinea, GR = Greece, HK = Hong Kong, ID = Indonesia, IL = Israel, IT = Italy, JO = Jordan, JP = Japan, KW = Kuwait, LB = Lebanon, LR = Liberia, LY = Libya, ML = Mali, MT = Malta, MX = Mexico, MY = Malaysia, NL = Netherlands, NO = Norway, OM = Oman, PH = Philippines, PL = Poland, PT = Portugal, QA = Qatar, RS = Serbia, RU = Russian Federation, SE = Sweden, SL = Sierra Leone, SG = Singapore, SN = Senegal, TG = Togo, TH = Thailand, TR = Turkey, TW = Taiwan, US = United States, UZ = Uzbekistan, ZA = South Africa.
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Grey areas: temporal and geographical dynamics
of international trade of Grey and Timneh Parrots
(Psittacus erithacus and P. timneh) under CITES
R. O. Martin
To cite this article: R. O. Martin (2017): Grey areas: temporal and geographical dynamics of
international trade of Grey and Timneh Parrots (Psittacus erithacus and P. timneh) under CITES,
Emu - Austral Ornithology
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Grey areas: temporal and geographical dynamics of international trade of Grey
and Timneh Parrots (Psittacus erithacus and P. timneh) under CITES
R. O. Martin
Africa Programme, World Parrot Trust, Hayle, UK;
FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology DST-NRF Centre of Excellence, Department of
Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
International trade in wild birds is a driver of biodiversity loss, species invasions and the spread of
diseases. Grey and Timneh Parrots (Psittacus erithacus and P. timneh) have been among the most
frequently traded of all birds listed in the Appendices of the Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and were recently categorised as Endangered
on the IUCN Red List. Records of international trade, available on the CITES trade database, were
used to establish geographical trends in imports and exports of Grey and Timneh Parrots since
1975. Patterns of trade varied dramatically over time, with key trading partnerships changing
frequently. Net exports of over 1.2 million wild-sourced parrots were reported, the majority of
which were exported to North America prior to 1992 and Europe prior to 2005. Recently, there
has been a rapid rise in exports of captive-bred parrots to parts of Asia, notably countries in the
Arabian Peninsula. The majority of captive-bred Grey and Timneh Parrots originate from South
Africa, which has at times also been the largest importer of wild-sourced parrots. Patterns of trade
are considered in the context of the changing economic, cultural, governance, and biological
circumstances to understand the potential drivers of major shifts and identify research needs and
interventions to control trade.
Received 2 May 2017
Accepted 11 August 2017
Wild bird trade; trade
regulation; CITES; species
conservation; exotic pet
trade; captive breeding;
Parrots (order Psittaciformes) have long been
trapped in large numbers in the wild for the inter-
national pet bird trade (Beissinger 2001). Since the
inception of the Convention on International Trade
in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
(CITES), approximately 12 million live parrots have
been reported in international trade, the majority of
which (62%) were either wild-sourced or of
unknown origin (UNODC 2016). The potential
threats to wild populations posed by this trade have
led to the entire order being listed in the Appendices
of CITES, with the exception of four relatively com-
wild populations (Wright et al.2001;González2003;
Pain et al.2006; Clarke and Rolf 2013), the wild bird
trade has been linked to a number of issues of con-
servation, economic and human health concern,
including the establishment of alien species (Cassey
et al.2004,2015; Carrete and Tella 2008; Cardador
et al.2017) and the spread of infectious diseases
(Karesh et al.2007; Varsani et al.2011; Harkins
et al.2014). The development of effective policies
and interventions to mitigate the threats posed by
the global bird trade requires an understanding of
current and historical trade patterns and their
Several African parrot species have regularly ranked
among the most traded of all bird species listed under
CITES. Between 2010 and 2014, three of the top four
most traded birds listed in the CITES Appendices were
endemic to Africa (Psittacus erithacus,Poicephalus
senegalus and Poicephalus gulielmi)(www.dashboards. UNEP WCMC, Cambridge, UK, downloaded
14 April 2017). High levels of exploitation have been
identified as a threat to wild populations for several of
the larger parrot species in Africa (Perrin 2012; Martin
et al.2014). A recent analysis concluded that the most
common threat to parrots in the Afro-tropics was
hunting and trapping, primarily for the cage-bird
trade and for use as pets (Olah et al.2016).
Grey and Timneh Parrots (Psittacus erithacus and P.
timneh) are native to the moist forests of the Afro-
tropics, their distribution spanning 21 countries in
West, Central and East Africa (Forshaw and Cooper
1989). Until recently these taxa were considered
together to comprise a single species, Psittacus
CONTACT R. O. Martin
© 2017 BirdLife Australia
Downloaded by [] at 01:31 15 September 2017
erithacus. Following taxonomic reassessment (Del
Hoyo and Collar 2014) this one species was split by
some authorities into two species, the Timneh Parrot
(P. timneh), restricted to West Africa from Guinea-
Bissau to Côte dIvoire, and the Grey Parrot (P. eritha-
cus), occurring from eastern Côte dIvoire through the
forests of the Congo Basin to Kenya and Tanzania.
This split has not yet been recognised by CITES, and
in keeping with this nomenclature hereafter both taxa
are referred to collectively as Psittacus parrots.
Although Psittacus parrots can be bred in commercial
quantities in captivity, the relative ease with which
large numbers can be captured from the wild and
transported to markets means that wild-sourced birds
have remained a common source of pet birds as well as
breeding stock for aviculturists. Recent data have rein-
forced earlier anecdotal reports that populations of
Psittacus parrots have suffered rapid declines in parts
of their range as a result of trade and forest loss
(Annorbah et al.2016). In Ghana, which exported
large numbers of Psittacus parrots in the past, systema-
tic field surveys indicate that populations have col-
lapsed by as much as 9099% since the early 1990s, a
time when fieldworkers were already voicing concerns
about declining populations (Grimes 1983; Dändliker
1992a). Additional surveys have recorded very low
population densities in parts of West Africa (Marsden
et al.2016) and Central Africa (Maisels and Stringberg
2016). Parrot traders recently arriving in previously
unexploited forest areas of the Congo Basin report
declining harvests in historical trapping sites, suggest-
ing that overexploitation of wild populations may be
widespread (Hart et al.2016). In 2016 Grey and
Timneh Parrots were uplisted to Endangered on the
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species on the basis that
the extent of the annual harvest for international trade,
in combination with the rate of ongoing habitat loss,
means it is now suspected to be undergoing rapid
declines over three generations (47 years)(BirdLife
International 2017).
CITES is the principal multilateral treaty through
which global trade in wildlife is regulated. Since its
inception in 1975, 183 states have become Parties to
the convention, thereby agreeing to ensure that inter-
national trade in specimens of wild animals and plants
does not threaten their survival. CITES requires that all
exports of species listed in Appendices I and II are
accompanied by an export permit, and Parties must
submit annual reports on exports and imports to the
CITES Secretariat. In 1981, Psittacus parrots were
transferred from Appendix III to Appendix II on the
basis that regulation of trade is necessary to avoid
utilisation incompatible with the survival of the species
in the wild. Under Appendix II, Parties have been
encouraged to establish science-based export quotas,
and processes, such as the Review of Significant
Trade, have produced recommendations for improving
management of the trade such as conservative export
quotas and moratoria on exports. In light of declines in
wild populations and ongoing compliance issues,
CITES Parties voted at the Seventeenth Conference of
Parties (Johannesburg, South Africa, 24 September to 5
October 2016) to adopt a proposal submitted by five
range states and four other CITES Parties to transfer
Psittacus parrots to Appendix I (Proposal no. 19;
CITES 2016). As a result of this decision, from
January 2017 international trade in wild-sourced
Psittacus parrots for commercial purposes is no longer
permitted. However, three Parties, including one major
exporting country (the Democratic Republic of Congo)
and two importing countries (the UAE and Saudi
Arabia), entered reservations to the listing, meaning
that trade between these countries could continue as
if the species were still listed in Appendix II.
In this study, records of imports and exports of
Psittacus parrots submitted to CITES are used to inves-
tigate the patterns of trade in Psittacus parrots since
1975. Focus is placed on geographical trends in imports
and exports of wild-sourced and captive-bred Psittacus
parrots to identify how key trading partnerships have
changed over time. The scale of recent compliance
issues, as indicated by CITES trade data, is also quan-
tified. Although several peer-reviewed studies and
reports have previously interrogated CITES data on
Psittacus parrots (CITES 2006; Li and Jiang 2014;
UNODC 2016;Poole and Shepherd 2017), no pub-
lished assessments of global trade patterns currently
exist. Through characterising the trade and exploring
patterns in the context of historical events and inter-
ventions to improve regulation, I aim in this paper to
address this shortfall and provide a quantitative basis
for decision making around the management of inter-
national trade in Psittacus parrots.
Data on the legal trade in live Psittacus parrots for
commercial purposes were downloaded directly from
the CITES database ( UNEP
WCMC, Cambridge UK, downloaded 14 April 2016).
This database holds records of the import, export and
re-export of CITES-listed species as reported to the
CITES Secretariat by Parties to CITES. Reporting of
these data is mandatory under the Convention, high-
lighted in CITES Article VII, which requires each Party
to maintain trade records for all CITES-listed species
Downloaded by [] at 01:31 15 September 2017
(CITES 1979). Three different outputs were down-
loaded from the database for the period between 1975
and 2014: (1) a comparative tabulation report, which
details quantities traded annually between trading part-
ners as reported by both importers and exporters, (2) a
net (re-)export report, which details the net balance of
quantities exported minus quantities imported, (3) and
net imports, which similarly details the net balance of
imports minus exports. In situations where quantities
reported by importers and exporters vary, the higher
figure was taken to represent the quantity in trade.
Differences in reported levels of trade can occur for a
variety of reasons including clerical errors, one party
failing to report on transactions, specimens being
exported at the end of one year but not received by
the importer until the following year and differences in
the way that Parties record and report transactions
(Phelps et al.2010; CITES 2013a). Under the
Convention, records must as far as possible report the
actual trade that took place (i.e. the quantity of speci-
mens that entered or left the country) but under Article
VIII Parties are also permitted to report trade based on
the permits issued. These variables mean that the
extent to which trade figures reflect actual levels is
uncertain, but nevertheless these data remain the
most comprehensive long-term database of interna-
tional transactions of wildlife in existence and have
proved valuable for identifying patterns of trade (e.g.
Heinrich et al.2016; Vall-llosera and Cassey 2017).
Although CITES does not recognise the split of
Psittacus parrots into two distinct species (P. erithacus
and P. timneh), some records within the CITES data-
base identify shipments as Timneh Parrots. However,
by Parties reflect the particular taxa involved is
unclear. In light of this, all records belonging to the
genus Psittacus were downloaded and no attempt has
been made in this study to distinguish trade in
Timneh and Grey Parrots.
To visualise the network of the trade in Psittacus
parrots and how this has varied over time, network
diagrams to represent the flow of Psittacus parrots
between countries were constructed. In these diagrams
each node represents a country that has reported trade,
and arrows connecting nodes (links) indicate the direc-
tion, volume (number of reported specimens) and
source (captive-bred, wild-sourced or other) of trade.
Geographical regions to which each country belongs
are indicated by node colour and regional affinities of
countries were designated in accordance with the
United Nations geoscheme. Diagrams were constructed
within the R statistical environment (Version 3.2.2, R
Core Team 2015) using the package igraph(Csardi
and Nepusz 2006) and used a Fruchterman-Reingold
force-directed layout algorithm (Fruchterman and
Reingold 1991). This algorithm positions nodes in rela-
tion to each other, based on the volumes of trade
between them. Clusters of nodes therefore provide an
indication of groups of key trading partners. Focus was
on major partnerships, and only transactions involving
more than 800 specimens, aggregated over each illu-
strated time period, were included in visualisations.
Overall levels of trade
Net exports of 1 644 037 Psittacus parrots were reported in
trade between 1975 and 2014. Of these, 1 224 755 (74%)
were reportedly wild-sourced, 403 410 (25%) captive-bred,
and a further 15 872 (1%) were of unknown source.
Commercial shipments of wild-sourced Psittacus
parrots (Purpose code T, Source code W) have
been reported from 77 countries and imports into
123. However, the majority of these shipments involved
relatively small quantities and over 90% of exports were
reportedly from just eight countries (seven range states
and Senegal). Shipments of wild-sourced birds have
been reported from the majority of range states with
the exception of Rwanda and Angola; however, Angola
only became a party to CITES in 2013.
Commercial exports of captive-bred Psittacus parrots
(Purpose code T,SourcecodeC) have been reported
from 90 countries and into 139. Ninety per cent of
exports were accounted for by just eight countries,
including two range states with no known breeding facil-
ities. Captive-bred exports were dominated by South
Africa, which alone accounted for 67% of all exports.
Trends over time
The relative importance of wild vs. captive-sourced
Parrots as well as patterns of importing and exporting
countries changed dramatically during the study per-
iod, and based on these changes the international trade
can be broadly categorised into three distinct periods:
(i) 19751992, (ii) 19932005, and (iii) 20062014.
Between 1975 and 1992 wild-sourced Psittacus parrots
dominated international trade, accounting for 97% of all
reported trade. Annual exports varied considerably over
the period, increasing from fewer than 5000 Parrots per
year prior to 1980 to an all-time peak of more than 63 000
in 1988 and remaining above 50 000 until 1992 (Figure 1
(a)). Exports of the majority (71%) of these wild-sourced
Parrots originated from West Africa and this dominance
was particularly the case at the peak of exports in 1988
Downloaded by [] at 01:31 15 September 2017
(Figure 1(b)). A decline in exports from West Africa
towards the end of the period was to some extent offset
by a gradual rise in exports from Central Africa, with
exports from Central Africa approximately doubling
between the mid-1980s and 1992. During this period,
imports were largely to North America and Europe,
which respectively accounted for 47% and 43% of
imports. Southern Africa, principally South Africa, was
the third largest importing region accounting for 6% of
imports (Figures 1(c) and 2(a)).
Exports of wild-sourced parrots remained high
between 1993 and 2005, although generally lower
than exports in the late 1980s and early 1990s
(Figure 1(a)). Wild-sourced parrots continued to
Figure 1. Annual trade in live Psittacus parrots globally for the period 19752014summarisedby(a)netexports by source, (b) net exports
by region, and (c) net imports by region (dashed lines indicate captive-bred exports, solid lines indicate wild-sourced exports).
Downloaded by [] at 01:31 15 September 2017
dominate exports throughout the period until a dra-
matic reduction in 2005, from which point onwards
captive-bred parrots became more frequently reported.
A rapid increase in exports of captive-bred parrots
occurred during this period, rising from a relatively
negligible volume to over 20 000 in 2005. The period
was dominated by a dramatic shift in the origins of
wild-sourced parrots away from West Africa towards
Central Africa. Over the period, exports from Central
Africa were consistently much higher than those from
West Africa and accounted for 82% of all wild-sourced
parrots between 1993 and 2005 (Figure 1(b)). During
this period, Europe became the predominant importer,
experiencing a modest increase in imports to account
for 73% of trade (Figure 1(c)). In contrast, imports to
North America all but ceased (Figure 2(a,b)), while
imports to Southern Africa remained largely stable.
Notably, there was a rise, particularly in the latter half
of the period of imports into Eastern and South-eastern
(notably captive-bred parrots to Thailand, Singapore,
Japan, Hong Kong and China and wild-sourced into
Singapore and Thailand, listed in diminishing order of
Figure 2. International trade networks of live Psittacus parrots during three phases of trade (a) 19751992, (b) 19932005, and (c)
20062014. Networks are based only on trade links which account for more than 800 specimens over each period. Nodes represent
individual countries, with node labels indicating the UN two-letter code for each country (country names given below). Node colour
indicates the geopolitical region to which each country belongs and node size indicates connectedness (size proportional to the natural
log of the number of direct trade links). Arrows indicate the direction of trade flows. Arrow width is proportional to the numbers of
specimens traded and arrow colour indicates the source (captive-bred, wild-sourced or other). Country codes: AE = United Arab Emirates,
AM = Armenia, AT = Austria, BD = Bangladesh, BE = Belgium, BH = Bahrain, CA = Canada, CD = Congo, the Democratic Republic of the,
CF = Central African Republic, CG = Congo, Republic of, CH = Switzerland, CI = Cote dIvoire, CM = Cameroon, CN = China, CZ = Czech
Republic, DE= Germany, ES = Spain, FR = France, GB = United Kingdom, GH= Ghana, GN = Guinea, GQ = Equatorial Guinea, GR = Greece,
HK = Hong Kong, ID = Indonesia, IL = Israel, IT = Italy, JO = Jordan, JP = Japan, KW = Kuwait, LB = Lebanon, LR = Liberia, LY = Libya,
ML = Mali, MT = Malta, MX = Mexico, MY = Malaysia, NL = Netherlands, NO = Norway, OM = Oman, PH = Philippines, PL = Poland,
PT = Portugal, QA = Qatar, RS = Serbia, RU = Russian Federation, SE = Sweden, SL = Sierra Leone, SG = Singapore, SN = Senegal,
TG = Togo, TH = Thailand, TR = Turkey, TW = Taiwan, US = United States, UZ = Uzbekistan, ZA = South Africa.
Downloaded by [] at 01:31 15 September 2017
importance) and Western Asia (notably captive-bred
parrots to the UAE, Israel and Kuwait and wild-
sourced to Israel, Kuwait and Qatar) (Figures 1(c)
and 2(b)).
The period 20062014 was characterised by a dra-
matic rise in net exports to over 100 000, the highest
number of Psittacus parrots reported in trade in any
single year in this study (Figure 1(a)). This steep rise
was driven largely by increases in the number of cap-
tive-bred birds, which surpassed wild-sourced exports
for the first time in 2007, and accounted for 73% of all
trade during the period (Figures 1(a) and 2(c)). Wild-
sourced exports saw a relatively modest rise from both
Central and West Africa, although Central Africa
(notably the DRC) continued to dominate exports
(Figures 1(b) and 2(c)). The largest proportion of
exports from Central Africa went to South Africa,
although notable numbers also moved to Singapore,
other Asian countries and also Serbia (Figure 2(c)).
The majority of captive-bred birds exported during
this period originated from South Africa and were
imported into Western Asia, notably the Arabian
Peninsula, which saw an explosion of imports over
the period (Figures 1(c) and 2(c)). These birds were
also moved in considerable numbers among countries
in the Arabian Peninsula, as demonstrated by the clus-
tering of these countries in Figure 2(c). Large numbers
of captive-bred birds were also imported into countries
in Central, Southern and South-eastern Asia, notably
Pakistan, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore (Figures
1(c) and 2(c)).
Indicators of compliance with CITES: 20062014
Since 2006, reported net exports of wild-sourced birds
have exceeded published annual export quotas from at
least one country every year with the exception of 2007.
Reported exports during this period exceeded pub-
lished quotas by 42 965, the majority (92%) of which
were reported to have been exported from the DRC
(Table 1). Excesses were also reported for Guinea,
which had zero export quotas for much of this period
and Cameroon which exported 900 in excess of zero
export quotas between 2008 and 2011. In addition 2200
wild-sourced parrots originating from the DRC and the
Republic of Congo were re-exported from Guinea.
A further 16 963 were reportedly exported from
countries that had no published quota (Table 1). The
majority (70%) of these were exported between 2012
and 2014 from the Republic of Congo, which reported
exports in adherence to an export quota of 4000 per
year between 2007 and 2011. Cameroon accounted for
much of the remainder of the exports (28%), with
smaller numbers being exported from Benin and
Togo. In 2013 the Republic of Congo also re-exported
200 Timneh Parrots reportedly originating from
Net exports of 4679 were also reported from several
countries that have been considered range states but
are not known to have any, or host only negligible, wild
populations (Table 1). Notable among these were Mali,
which exported 2570 Grey Parrots and 1520 Timneh
Parrots. Smaller numbers were also exported from
Benin (74) and Togo (80). Wild-sourced parrots with
no declared country of origin were exported from
Mozambique (435) and South Africa (360).
Net exports of 13 264 were reported as captive-bred
exports from range states that have no known com-
mercial breeding facilities (Table 1). Of these, 52% were
exported from the Central African Republic, 28% from
Guinea (including both Grey and Timneh Parrots), and
10% from Côte dIvoire, with smaller numbers from
Cameroon, the DRC and Nigeria. If these exports were
in fact wild-sourced this suggests the true number of
wild-sourced parrots in reported trade is 12% higher
than official figures indicate. In addition to these num-
bers, Mali exported a further 1116 as captive-bred and
re-exports of 5037 from South Africa and Saudi Arabia.
Trade reported to CITES suggests very large volumes
of Psittacus parrots have been trapped in the wild for
the exotic pet trade since 1975. Although limits to
CITES data make it difficult to determine accurate
levels of trade (Phelps et al.2010), compliance issues
such as the apparent misreporting of wild specimens as
Table 1. Net exports of wild-sourced and captive-bred
Psittacus parrots indicative of compliance with CITES between
2007 and 2014
Exports in
excess of
Exports in
Exports of wild-
sourced parrots
where no or
negligible wild
Exports of
parrots where
no commercial
facilities occur
Cote dIvoire –– – 1400
Guinea 2500 220 4325
DRC 39 565 –– 150
Congo 12 035 ––
Cameroon 900 4708 300
CAR –– – 7020
Nigeria –– – 300
Togo –– 80
Benin –– 64
Mali –– 4090
Mozambique –– 435
South Africa –– 360
Total 42 965 16 963 5029 13 495
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captive-bred (CITES 2012a) suggest that official figures
may underestimate the number of wild-sourced parrots
in reported trade. In addition, high levels of pre-export
mortality (variously estimated at between 10 and 66%;
Fotso 1998a, 1998b; McGowan 2001; Clemmons 2003;
Hart 2013), unreported illegal trade and trade within
domestic markets suggest that the true numbers of
parrots trapped over this period may be considerably
greater than the 1.22 million reported here.
Drivers of change in trade in Psittacus parrots
reported to CITES
Marked regional shifts in the key exporting and
importing countries indicate a dynamic global trade
underpinned by several trading hubs. Shifting pat-
terns of imports, exports and re-exports are likely
driven by a number of regulatory changes including
CITES measures, unilateral restrictions on imports
and exports and social, economic and biological fac-
tors affecting supply and demand.
The first major shift occurred in the early 1990s,
when overall trade in wild birds showed a marked
decline, particularly from West Africa, and imports
into North America, one of the key markets in the
1980s, all but ceased. Starting in 1988, exports from
several range states were scrutinised as part of phase
one of the CITES Review of Significant Trade (RST)
initiated in 1988. As a result of the review process, two
field studies were conducted to evaluate the status of
wild populations and the impact of trade in West
Africa, focusing on Guinea and Ghana (Dändliker
1992a,1992b). Both of these studies highlighted con-
cerns that current levels of trade were unsustainable.
Indeed, annual exports from Guinea exceeded the
population estimate for the entire country at that
time, suggesting that many exported parrots may have
in fact originated from other countries (Dändliker
1992a). In Ghana, anecdotal reports reinforced the ear-
lier concerns of others (Grimes 1983) that populations
had been greatly reduced due to trapping (Dändliker
1992a). Concerns were also raised about large numbers
of exports from Togo, despite having almost no viable
population, as well as exports from Côte dIvoire
(Dändliker 1992a). Following the review, recommenda-
tions were made for Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia
and Togo. Exports from several countries, including
Mali, Côte dIvoire, Ghana, Guinea and Togo largely
ceased at this time, although some of these countries
resumed exports in the 2000s at relatively low levels
(CITES 2012b).
At about the same time, imports of wild birds into
the United States ceased as a result of the passing of the
1992 Wild Bird Conservation Act (WBCA). Prior to the
passing of the Act, the United States was a major
importer of wild-sourced Psittacus parrots from West
as well as Central Africa (Figure 2(a)). European Union
bans on imports from several West African states,
including Ghana and Togo, also came into existence
in the late 1980s (Mulliken 1995). Although it appears
that alternative markets for Psittacus parrots from
West Africa were not readily available, a spike in
imports into South Africa at this time may reflect the
redirection of some legal exports from West Africa,
and potentially illegal exports (Mulliken 1995).
The reduction in exports from West African coun-
tries may also have been driven by a decline in the
availability of wild birds in the region. Recent surveys
in Ghana indicate that populations have declined by
9099% since the early 1990s, and extensive searches
found none of the large roosts which once reportedly
hosted thousands of Grey Parrots (Annorbah et al.
2016). Recent surveys in other countries in West
Africa suggest densities are also low in other areas
(Marsden et al.2016), potentially precluding exports
on the massive scales (over 40 000 per year) that
occured for much of the 1980s. A field study in
Nigeria in 2001 found that 100% of known nests were
being poached, indicating that exploitation was occur-
ring at maximum and unsustainable levels (McGowan
2001; Pain et al.2006). A number of studies have
suggested that measures of availability, such as the
abundance and accessibility of wild populations, are
particularly important in determining levels of trade
in some groups of parrots (Pires and Clarke 2012;
Pires 2015; Vall-llosera and Cassey 2017; but see Tella
and Hiraldo 2014).
A second major shift in trade patterns occurred in
the mid-2000s, when trade in wild-sourced Psittacus
parrots declined and volumes of captive-bred parrots
continued to increase rapidly. The decline in trade in
wild-sourced birds coincided with a number of events
affecting the regulation of international trade. Among
these, the rapid global spread of the highly pathogenic
and zoonotic H5N1 strain of the avian influenza virus,
which emerged in 2003, led to the implementation of
numerous restrictions on trade in many importing
countries (e.g. Brooks-Moizer et al.2008). Among
them the European Union, which was by far the largest
importer of wild-sourced parrots from the mid-1990s
to mid-2000s, and a significant market for those bred
in captivity, placed a temporary suspension on imports
of all wild birds in 2005, which was made permanent in
2007 on the basis of recommendations of biosecurity
and animal welfare. In addition, in 2006 restrictions on
exports from the principal exporting range states were
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recommended as a result of the CITES RST process.
These included temporary suspensions on exports from
Cameroon, Côte dIvoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra
Leone, and conservative quotas for the DRC and the
Republic of Congo (CITES 2006). Several countries in
West Africa effectively ceased exports at this time,
publishing export quotas of zero from 2007 onwards
to which they largely adhered (CITES 2012a).
However, in Guinea, exports reported as captive-bred
increased dramatically despite there being no captive
breeding of CITES-listed species occurring in Guinea,
suggesting that the source was being mislabelled
(CITES 2012b).
The increase in exports reported as captive-bred is
largely accounted for by rising exports from South
Africa, which came to dominate global exports by the
mid-2010s. The initial rise in exports in the mid-1990s
may in part be attributable to the mislabelling of re-exports
of wild-sourced birds that were both legally and illegally
imported into South Africa, largely from West Africa
(Mulliken 1995). Also at this time, the ready availability
of wild-sourced parrots and the refinement of techniques
for the captive breeding of Psittacus parrots in South Africa
paved the way for the establishment of large-scale breeding
facilities for export, relying on relatively inexpensive wild-
sourced birds (Mulliken 1995). This industry was highly
lucrative and a financial evaluation conducted in 2004
suggested that the establishment of a relatively small breed-
ing facility (32 pairs) could generate annual returns of 62%
on capital investment (Dennison 2004). In recent years
there has been considerable investment in avicultural facil-
ities in South Africa, which has emerged as by far the
largest exporter of CITES-listed birds. By 2015 it was
estimated that South Africa had over 1600 breeding facil-
ities, of which 510 were mega-facilitieswith 5001000
pairs (PASA pers. comm. 2015). Until 2012 South Africa
also continued to be one of the principal importers of wild-
sourced Psittacus parrots, the majority of which originated
from the DRC (Figure 2(c)). Wild parrots are preferred by
some breeders as they are relatively inexpensive and have
the potential to breed immediately, compared with a wait
of 45 years for those bred in captivity (Dennison 2004).
Since 2007, the majority of captive-bred parrots in
trade were imported into countries in the Arabian
Peninsula and to a lesser degree Central and South-east-
ern Asia (Figure 2(c)). Interestingly, substantial volumes
of parrots were re-exported between countries in the
Arabian Peninsula, suggesting the existence of a close-
knit trade network (Figure 2(c)). Of particular note is the
role of Bahrain, which was one of the largest importers
during this period, yet only became a signatory to CITES
in 2012. Although the majority of reported trade in the
region largely comprises captive-bred parrots originating
in South Africa, there were also substantial imports of
wild-sourced parrots from the DRC and the Republic of
Congo. The growth in imports of Psittacus parrots into
Asia may reflect a generally expanding consumer com-
munity for wildlife including exotic pets, which may be
attributable to a number of factors including rapid
human population growth, increasing affluence, expan-
sion in international travel routes, Internet connectivity
and cultural shifts (Ding et al.2008;McNeelyet al.2009;
Bush et al.2014).
The future of trade in Psittacus parrots:
challenges and opportunities
The dynamics of trade over the last 40 years highlights
some of the challenges and opportunities for regulating
international trade in parrots. Although the available
data preclude detailed analysis of the impact of regula-
tory measures vs. the economic, cultural and biological
factors that determine supply and demand in interna-
tional markets, it appears evident that specific regula-
tory changes brought about unilaterally and through
international conventions such as CITES have resulted
in changes in the flow of trade as reported to CITES.
While it has been suggested that the restriction of
imports into the United States and European Union
had little influence on overall levels of reported trade in
parrots globally (Cardador et al.2017), it appears that
the effective removal of large pools of potential con-
sumers had immediate and long-lasting impacts on
trade in wild Psittacus parrots, with volumes of trade
following the EU ban being substantially lower than in
the preceding two decades. It is possible that these
restrictions on imports played a role in accelerating
the expansion of the captive-breeding industry in
South Africa, which saw relatively small spikes in
imports following actions by the United States and
European Union. In addition to being used as breeding
stock, wild-sourced parrots were laundered through
South Africa where they were illegally re-exported as
captive-bred(Mulliken 1995). Levels of nest poaching
of wild parrots in the Neotropics declined significantly
following US restrictions on wild bird imports, suggest-
ing that for this region, at least, the restrictions did not
simply result in a redirection of all trade to other
regions or underground (Wright et al.2001).
CITES measures, many of which were recom-
mended as part of the RST process, also appear to
have had a major influence on patterns of reported
trade, although the timing of some of these recommen-
dations makes their impact on overall levels of trade
difficult to distinguish from unilateral import bans
(CITES 2012a). While the general shift from West
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Africa to Central Africa in the mid-1990s may have
been in response to phase one of the RST, the removal
of the United States as a market for Psittacus parrots
from West Africa was likely also significant; in the
period prior to the adoption of the US Wild Bird
Conservation Act, US imports accounted for 46% of
all Psittacus parrots exported from West Africa. The
recommendations of the RST, which focused on key
exporters in West Africa, may have played a role in
limiting the degree to which exports from West Africa
reoriented to other regions, with the two regulatory
changes effectively acting in concert. However, there
are indications that in some instances these recommen-
dations, which are generally specific to particular coun-
tries, had the result of diverting trade to other areas; for
example, declines in exports from Mali and Ghana in
the late 1980s and early 1990s were offset by a rise in
exports from nearby countries (CITES 2012a). These
shifts were likely facilitated in part by the movements
of key actors to other countries in the region, with
some field studies reporting that trappers and traders
moved to other countries following localised trade
restrictions and declining populations (McGowan
2001; Annorbah et al.2016). The trade networks estab-
lished as a result of these movements may be critical in
promoting continued trade throughout the region. The
recent arrest of a Ghanian national operating in
Cameroon who was exporting parrots via West
African countries highlights the resulting complexity
of transnational trade networks (Drori in litt.toC.
The large number of range states for Psittacus par-
rots, and the porous nature of many of the national
borders that connect them, means that there is con-
siderable potential for trade restrictions for specific
countries to simply displace trade to other areas.
Similarly, the existence of export quotas from some
countries can provide routes to international markets
for parrots illegally trapped in neighbouring countries.
The need for a coordinated regional approach to the
regulation of trade in Psittacus parrots has long been
recognised (Dändliker 1992a; Van der Heijden 2003).
Regional plans have been developed for other CITES-
listed species (e.g. Sturgeon (Acipenseriformes)) but,
despite multiple efforts, including an EU-funded work-
shop in 2013 involving multiple range states, with the
specific aim of developing synergy towards regional
management (CITES 2013b), a regional management
plan for the species is still lacking. Increased coopera-
tion between CITES Parties remains vital and it is
critically important that, following the reservations
taken to the Appendix I listing of the species in 2016
(by the DRC, Saudi Arabia and the UAE), CITES
Management Authorities of importing and exporting
countries work together to ensure that any ongoing
exports do not impact wild populations.
Commitments to not import wild-sourced Psittacus
parrots, made by the UAE and Saudi Arabia in July
2017 at the Twenty-ninth meeting of the CITES
Animals Committee, are an important step towards
this goal.
The extent to which the trade patterns reported
here, based on figures reported to CITES, reflect true
flows of trade is unclear, and the difficulties in measur-
ing levels of illegal activity are a major challenge to the
management of trade (Phelps et al.2010; Challender
and MacMillan 2014; Solomon et al.2015; Hinsley
et al.2016). Investigations of legally reported trade
can provide some insight into aspects of illegal trade,
and the patterns described in this study suggest some
areas for further investigation. Increased imports of
significant volumes of captive-bred and wild-sourced
parrots into countries bordering the European Union,
including Serbia and Turkey (Figure 2(c), country
codes RS and TR) suggest that these countries may be
operating as conduits for illegal trade into EU coun-
tries. This suggestion is further supported by a number
of recent seizures of Psittacus parrots entering Bulgaria
and Hungary, and a 2013 undercover investigation
detailing the role of Turkey in imports of wild-sourced
parrots from the DRC into the European Union (C.
Senni pers. comm.). In Singapore, discrepancies in
reported imports and exports suggest that significant
levels of unreported trade may exist (Poole and
Shepherd 2017). Poole and Shepherd (2017) further
noted that local markets were unlikely to be able to
absorb the large numbers of parrots being imported
into Singapore, and emphasise the need for improved
monitoring and reporting of trade, notably of (re-)
exports to Taiwan which is not a Party to CITES.
Some unusual and apparently illogical trade patterns
of re-exports have also emerged in recent years, includ-
ing re-exports of reportedly captive-bred parrots from
Mali and the complex web of trade among countries in
the Arabian Peninsula, where regional internal trade of
captive-bred parrots originating from South Africa has
frequently occurred. Between 2007 and 2014 these
exports have involved 17 652 specimens, with trade
reported to have occurred in opposing directions
between several trading partners in several years.
Exports of reportedly captive-bred Psittacus parrots
from the UAE have even been reported into South
Africa recently despite the flow of tens of thousands
of captive-bred parrots in the opposite direction (de
Greef 2016). These flows of parrots are particularly
worthy of greater scrutiny given the recent rise to
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prominence of the Arabian Peninsula as a market for
Psittacus parrots, and the fact that the UAE and Saudi
Arabia entered reservations for the Appendix I listing
and have imported significant quantities of wild-
sourced birds from the DRC. Although listing in
CITES Appendix I may reduce opportunities for illegal
trade through such routes, further investigations, vigi-
lance by border authorities and the careful develop-
ment of policies (e.g. on registration of Psittacus
parrots within the European Union) are vital to ensure
that illegal trade does not occur at unsustainable levels.
The relationship between trade in wild and captive-
bred Psittacus parrots also demands further scrutiny.
While theory suggests that bringing to market large
quantities of affordable, high-quality captive-bred spe-
cimens could lessen illegal collection of wild specimens
and drive down market prices (Bulte and Damania
2005), the circumstances under which such interven-
tions may be effective are lacking empirical study
(Sutherland et al.2009; Phelps et al.2014). Trade
patterns observed in this study suggest that the links
between markets for captive-bred and wild-sourced
Psittacus parrots are complex and the outcomes of
policy interventions difficult to predict. Although it is
possible that captive-bred production has served to
offset rising demand in parts of Asia, imports of wild-
sourced parrots into Western Asia have increased in
recent years in spite of massive rises in captive-bred
imports from South Africa. The reasons for this
increase deserve further investigation, although several
potential explanations exist, including the possibility
that increased availability of Psittacus parrots in mar-
kets in the region has stimulated demand, and that
wild-sourced parrots are being imported as breeding
stock for locally based captive-breeding operations to
supply domestic demand.
While captive-bred parrots are widely held to make
better pets than wild ones, the degree to which captive-
sourced Psittacus parrots are readily substitutable for
wild-sourced parrots in some markets is unclear. The
efficacy with which large quantities of Psittacus parrots
can be trapped in the wild and their low rates of
reproduction in captivity mean that wild birds are
cheaper to obtain and as a result markets may exist
among ill-informed and less wealthy consumers.
Captive-breeding operations in South Africa have also
historically imported wild-sourced birds as breeding
stock and, despite exporting over 20 000 parrots a
year in the late 2000s, South Africa was also the largest
importer of wild-sourced Psittacus parrots. The poten-
tial for the avicultural industry in South Africa to
achieve the recent massive increase in exports of cap-
tive-bredPsittacus parrots is unclear and warrants
further investigation. Between 2013 and 2014 exports
rose by 56%, a 27 604 increase. Given the current
enormous scale of the parrot-breeding industry in
South Africa (Russo 2015), substantial opportunities
exist for the laundering of wild-sourced parrots as
captive-bred breeding stock or labelled as captive-
bredfor export, and it is critical that steps are taken
to ensure that the industry is adequately regulated and
compliant with CITES. There is a need to adopt robust
systems for marking and tracking parrots, including
the use of closed rings on all parrots bred in captivity
and lockable rings in combination with subcutaneous
microchip transponders for those already in captivity.
The establishment of a central repository of blood
samples from all parrots would allow for analysis of
parentage, as has been recently discussed for other
parrots in South Africa (Coetzer et al.2017). Detailed
record keeping by breeders should be accompanied by
frequent and unannounced checks on breeding facil-
ities and of shipments at the point of export.
Furthermore, the use of wild-sourced breeding stock
should be phased out to ensure that breeding opera-
tions are self-sustaining. Imports of purportedly cap-
tive-bred parrots into South Africa should be
scrutinised closely.
The transfer of the species to Appendix I of CITES
requires that breeding facilities wishing to export
Psittacus parrots must register with CITES. At present
no taxon-specific CITES guidelines exist for the regis-
tration and inspection of parrot-breeding facilities,
such as those produced for reptiles in South-eastern
Asia (TRAFFIC 2013). The production of such guide-
lines would be timely and should be given careful
consideration. The development of effective regulation
of captive-breeding operations should also consider
how the benefits of the trade are shared between
CITES Parties. Increased restrictions on wild-sourced
exports have reduced the potential for range states to
benefit from the trade, possibly reducing incentives to
manage wild populations sustainably. Consideration
should be given to the development of mechanisms
for sharing the benefits derived from captive breeding,
such as a levy on exports from non-range states direc-
ted towards capacity building and conservation.
Despite numerous interventions aimed at controlling
trade, declines in wild populations of Psittacus par-
rots are increasingly well documented (Martin et al.
2014; Annorbah et al.2016; Hart et al.2016).
Although it is too early to know whether the recent
listing of Psittacus parrots in Appendix I of CITES
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will be effective at reducing the exploitation of wild
populations to sustainable levels, numerous opportu-
nities for illegal trade such as poor compliance with
quotas, mislabelling of specimens and the use of
fraudulent permits will be eliminated. It is critical
that strategies for controlling complex and dynamic
trade in wildlife use a multifaceted approach and are
based on robust information about the drivers of
trade and its impacts on wild populations (Phelps
et al.2014;Challenderet al.2015). Numerous knowl-
edge gaps currently exist and there is a need for
research to understand factors that affect the supply
and demand of wild parrots, the scale and nature of
illicit trade, the links between captive-bred and wild-
sourced markets, the factors that undermine govern-
ance at national and sub-national (e.g. provincial)
levels, and the potential for growth in demand for
Psittacus parrots within Africa, which is currently
relatively small. Enforcement measures against the
trafficking of wild-sourced birds for breeding stock
and as pets should be accompanied by market-based
interventions such as targeted demand-reduction
campaigns aimed at changing consumer behaviour.
As one of the most traded exotic pets listed under
CITES (Bush et al.2014), the challenges of control-
ling the trade in Psittacus parrots are numerous and
success will be achieved only through regional colla-
boration in implementing a carefully considered,
multifaceted strategy.
I would like to thank Cristiana Senni, Ann Michels, Jamie
Gilardi, Steve Beissinger, Sue Lieberman and an anonymous
reviewer for technical advice and comments which greatly
improved the manuscript.
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... Parrots are mostly traded to supply the demand for pets and cage birds, and since 1982, the entire order (with the exception of four relatively common species) has been listed in the Appendices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in an attempt to make this trade sustainable and avoid illegal trade [2]. However, illegal trade may run in parallel with CITES-regulated international trade [3], and illegal domestic trade remains substantial in some countries, representing an important threat to parrot populations [4]. Aside from conservation impacts on the harvested species, and despite CITES regulations and international bans, both the legal and illegal trade have contributed to the establishment of alien and invasive populations of parrots worldwide [5,6]. ...
... African and Asian markets are less documented than the American ones [11], but insights from the most traded African species, P. erithacus and P. timneh, show complex markets with shifting geographical patterns of imports, exports, and re-exports of wildsourced and captive-bred birds across time [3]. In contrast to American markets, the role of criminal actors exploiting the legal trade in parrots to traffic threatened and protected species in international markets is more evident in African and Asian contexts [60]. ...
... Besides general descriptions about poaching methods and smuggling routes [52,100], there is not a nuanced description of actor typology [21] involved in the parrot trade, their roles, interactions, levels of economic reliance, and knowledge. Social network analysis has already been used to identify key countries that play crucial roles in the illegal trade network of African parrots [3,98]. A wider application of this approach could help to improve our understanding of the interaction among actors and products, which in turn could help to identify opportunities for conservation intervention tailored to the specific actor group [101][102][103][104]. Recent research in the Red Siskin (Spinus cucullatus), a globally Endangered finch threatened by illegal trade, combined tools from social network analysis, interviews, social media monitoring, and the literature to describe the trade network for this species [101], which could be applied to the illegal parrot trade. ...
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The order Psittaciformes is one of the most prevalent groups in the illegal wildlife trade. Efforts to understand this threat have focused on describing the elements of the trade itself: actors, extraction rates, and routes. However, the development of policy-oriented interventions also requires an understanding of how research aims and actions are distributed across the trade chain, regions, and species. We used an action-based approach to review documents published on illegal Psittaciformes trade at a global scale to analyze patterns in research aims and actions. Research increased exponentially in recent decades, recording 165 species from 46 genera, with an over representation of American and Australasian genera. Most of the research provided basic knowledge for the intermediary side of the trade chain. Aims such as the identification of network actors, zoonosis control, and aiding physical detection had numerous but scarcely cited documents (low growth rate), while behavior change had the highest growth rate. The Americas had the highest diversity of research aims, contributing with basic knowledge, implementation, and monitoring across the whole trade chain. Better understanding of the supply side dynamics in local markets, actor typology, and actor interactions are needed. Protecting areas, livelihood incentives, and legal substitutes are actions under-explored in parrots, while behavior change is emerging.
... Over the last 20 years, quantitative studies have examined trade in birds at both global and regional scales based on legal trade records from the CITES Trade Database. For instance, Martin (2017) analyzed the characteristics of global trade in Grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus) since 1975, and found the trade patterns varied dramatically over time with key trading partners changing frequently. Vall-Llosera and Su (2019) conducted quantitative analyses of trade in live birds by Japan, and concluded that bird imports were restricted by the availability of bird species to the international market. ...
... For instance, the National Forestry and Grassland Administration of China has issued several documents that forbid hunting and utilization of wild birds (National Forestry Administration, 1999;National Forestry and Grassland Administration, 2016). Since changes in economic development, policy frameworks, and other factors (e.g., market demands) may affect the level and trends of the international bird trade (Martin, 2017;Dai et al., 2021), it is necessary to examine bird trade in China over the last 10 years. ...
... This noticeable increase may reflect a general expansion of consumer community for wildlife (including exotic pets), which may be attributed to factors such as the improvement of living standard in China, expansion of international travel routes, Internet connectivity, and cultural shifts (Ding et al., 2008;Mcneely et al., 2009;Bush et al., 2014). Moreover, the improvement of captive breeding technologies in major exporting countries (e.g., South Africa) has greatly increased the availability of Grey parrots bred in captivity, so that more captive-bred individuals are available for trade (Martin, 2017). Over the last 10 years, the primary destination of the live birds exported from China has changed from Europe (e.g., Spain and Italy) to the Arabian Peninsula (e.g., Qatar and Saudi Arabia) when comparing with results of Li and Jiang (2014). ...
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There is a large international trade in live birds, which could affect wild bird populations at both national and global scales. It is thus crucial to understand the temporal and geographical dynamics of international trade in wildlife periodically to inform management. We characterized the international legal trade in live birds of species listed in the Appendices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) by China from 2010 to 2019, and investigated the potential factors influencing this trade. According to the CITES Trade Database, China imported more than 90,000 live birds of about 130 species and exported only 603 live birds of 10 species from 2010 to 2019, indicating that China was a major importer of this group. Most bird species imported by China were Psittaciformes (e.g., Grey parrot Psittacus erithacus, accounting for 86% of the total imported individuals), while most birds exported from China were Psittaciformes (75%; e.g., Fischer's lovebird Agapornis fischeri) and Falconiformes (24%; e.g., Saker falcon Falco cherrug,). These species were traded for different purposes such as commercial activities, zoo, and personal needs. Trading partners included over 40 countries: South Africa, Mali, Guyana, and Suriname were the main exporters of live birds to China, while Qatar and Saudi Arabia were the main importers of live birds from China. The optimal generalized linear model suggested that the bird species richness imported to China was only positively correlated with bird-keeping culture of the exporting countries, which contributed a large quantity (77.87%) to the variation of the bird species richness in trade based on the hierarchical partitioning analyses. Our results may have broad implications for better management of international bird trade with China, including improving population monitoring within their native ranges and invasion risk assessment of the most highly-traded wild-caught and non-native species, improving monitoring and reporting their trade, etc. Further studies are needed to look at trade in particular groups of birds (e.g. Psittaciformes and Falconiformes) for better understanding and management.
... The African grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus), the largest species of parrots in Africa, has a high life expectancy and an unparalleled ability to imitate human speech and inanimate objects (Tully 2009;BirdLife International 2018), which makes it one of the most popular avian pets in Europe, the United States and the Middle East (Tully 2009;BirdLife International 2018). This popularity has a downside, as African parrots are among the most traded of all birds listed on the appendices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) (Martin 2018a;Martin 2018b). Historically, the African grey parrot has been traded since the 1870s (Annorbah et al. 2016), and a recent study pointed out the role of social media as a means to increase the local and global parrots trade (Martin et al. 2018). ...
... Historically, the African grey parrot has been traded since the 1870s (Annorbah et al. 2016), and a recent study pointed out the role of social media as a means to increase the local and global parrots trade (Martin et al. 2018). As a consequence, the export quotas for this species are probably being exceeded in several countries (Martin 2018a;Martin 2018b). For example, in Ghana, it is estimated that the decline of this species over the last two decades exceeds 90% (Annorbah et al. 2016). ...
African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus) are very popular pets, commonly seen in avian clinical practice. Haematological profiles are critical to the understanding of several disease processes, being particularly useful as diagnostic tools in clinical practice, since birds tend to hide clinical signs of disease. We have previously proposed new haematological reference intervals (RI) for captive African grey parrots, and in the present work the basic data obtained was studied in detail to investigate the influence of factors, such as age and sex, on the haematological profile of this bird species. During an 8-year period (March 2009 to July 2017), animals (n = 239) examined in first consultations or check-ups at the Zoològic Veterinaris (Barcelona) were submitted to blood collection at different time points, rendering a total of 459 blood samples. The haematological testing was performed according to the guidelines of the American Society of Veterinary Clinical Pathology to determine the packed cell volume (PCV), haemoglobin (Hb), mean haemoglobin concentration (MHC), mean corpuscular volume (MCV), mean corpuscular haemoglobin concentration (MCHC), total erythrocyte count (TRBC), total leukocyte count (TWBC), and differential leukogram with absolute and relative counts. All the haematological testing was performed in an in-house laboratory as previously described. Animals with 0 to 4 years of age showed higher values of PCV (P < 0.001), Hb (P = 0.023) and RBC (P = 0.018), and lower values of MCHC (P = 0.008), WBC (P = 0.012) and heterophils (P < 0.001) than older animals. There were significant differences exhibited in the monocytes (P = 0.035) between different age groups. Females presented higher PCV, Hb and RBC values (P < 0.001) compared to males. Our results suggest that the age and sex influence the haematological parameters in a significant manner in African grey parrots and should be accounted for when assessing the health status of individuals from this species.
... Grey Parrot Psittacus erithacus has a huge range in West and Central Africa, but populations have been subjected to intense anthropogenic pressures (BirdLife International 2020b). Over the last 30 years the species' habitat has been disappearing at increasing speed (Achard et al. 2002, Duveiller et al. 2008, and tens of thousands of individuals have been harvested from the wild to satisfy a multi-million dollar international pet trade (Martin 2017, UNEP-CITES 2017. The species' global conservation status rapidly deteriorated from Near Threatened through Vulnerable to Endangered in just five years (BirdLife International 2020b), resulting in a near-unanimous acceptance of calls for a ban on its international trade in 2016 (CITES 2017). ...
... With over 1.6 million individuals legally exported from range states between 1975 and 2014, Grey Parrot was then the most traded wild bird species in the world (Martin 2017, UNEP-CITES 2017. Despite this, the supply of birds remained strong until growing concerns over the state of wild populations led to a ban on its trade in 2016 (CITES 2017). ...
While populations of the Endangered Grey Parrot Psittacus erithacus have collapsed across its range, the species remains remarkably abundant on the island of Príncipe, Gulf of Guinea. We examine how aspects of its ecology interplay with local environmental conditions, to inform conservation strategies for this species and other large parrots. On Príncipe, parrots breed in large trees of common species, with nest densities (42 ± 34 km−2) greatly exceeding those for any comparably sized parrot. Productivity is high (1.9 chicks per cavity), probably reflecting the absence of nest competitors and predators. Food sources are abundant and much of the island is inaccessible to trappers, so many nests are successful each year. Historically harvest has involved taking only chicks from trees in a few traditional patches. These conditions have combined to allow Grey Parrots to thrive on Príncipe, while elsewhere nest trees are timber targets, nest competition and nest predation are likely to be more intense, trapping is indiscriminate, and few areas remain unexploited by trappers. Preservation of large trees as breeding refugia, and vigilance against the indiscriminate trapping of adult birds, are identified as key conditions to stabilize and recover mainland Grey Parrot populations and indeed large parrots generally, given their very similar ecological traits and anthropogenic circumstances.
... This trade in the past has involved large numbers of wild-sourced birds, with over 1.2 million cases reported in legal international trade since 1980. 13 ...
... Although no current statistics on levels of parrot ownership in South Africa exist, the keeping and breeding of parrots, the vast majority of which are non-native to South Africa, is a popular pastime. In addition, the breeding of parrots for commercial export has seen a rapid expansion over the past decade, with South Africa emerging as a central hub in the global parrot trade (Martin 2018a(Martin , 2018b. In recent years, there has been considerable investment in the development of avicultural facilities (Kriel 2018), including the development of a number of large-scale, export-oriented mega-facilities containing over 1,000 breeding pairs (Parrot Breeders' Association of South Africa, pers. ...
en The Guineo-Congolian “rain” forest (G-C forest) in West and Central Africa is threatened by deforestation. From 1975 to 2013, the extent of the G-C forest decreased by 37%, from about 131,000 to 83,000 km². Overall, 46% of bird species in the G-C forest (123 of 268) have declining populations, and about 31 species (12%) are categorized as endangered, near threatened, or vulnerable. Impacts of harvesting for “bushmeat” and the cage bird industry are largely unknown, but, of 60 species of birds in the G-C forest known to be hunted or trapped, six are categorized as vulnerable, one as near threatened, and one as endangered. In addition, 35 of the 60 species are estimated to have decreasing populations, 18 species have stable populations, and three are increasing in number. The impacts of clearing or disturbing G-C forest to cultivate cash crops are not fully known, except that avian diversity is markedly reduced in such areas. Traditional “sacred groves,” mostly small patches of forest, are not formally designated as conservation areas, but may serve as protected sites for some species of birds. Temperatures have increased and rainfall has decreased over the last five decades in West Africa. These changes will likely contribute to a further loss of suitable habitat for range-restricted species of birds. In addition, species currently found in lowland and montane habitats may be forced to move to higher elevations. Of 53 species of birds found in lowland habitat, five are endangered, seven are near threatened, 11 are vulnerable, and one is data deficient, suggesting that ~44% of lowland species may have an increased risk of extinction. Countries with G-C forest all have large human populations with high incidences of poverty, resources harvested at unsustainable rates, and increasing rates of deforestation. Networks of large protected areas in West and Central Africa, with much tighter controls over unsustainable harvesting, are urgently needed to ensure conservation of the birds and, more generally, the biodiversity of the G-C forest. RESUMEN es Una reseña del estatus de conservación de las aves del bosque guineo-congolés de África El bosque ‘lluvioso’ guineo-congolés (bosque G-C) en el occidente y centro de África está amenazado por la deforestación. De 1975 a 2013, la extensión del bosque G-C decreció 37%, de cerca de 131,000 a 83,000 km². En general, 46% de las especies de aves en el bosque G-C (123 de 268) tienen poblaciones en declive y cerca de 31 especies (12%) están caracterizadas como en peligro, casi amenazadas o vulnerables. Los impactos de la extracción de ‘carne de monte’ y la industria de aves de jaula son en su mayoría desconocidos, pero, de 60 especies de aves que se cazan o capturan en el bosque G-C, seis están categorizadas como vulnerables, una como casi amenazada y una como en peligro. Adicionalmente, se estima que 35 de las 60 especies tienen poblaciones en declive, 18 tienen poblaciones estables y tres están incrementando sus números. Los impactos del desmonte o perturbación del bosque G-C por cultivos comerciales no es del todo conocido, excepto que la diversidad de aves es marcadamente reducida en dichas áreas. Los ‘huertos sagrados’ tradicionales, en su mayoría pequeños parches de bosque, no están designados como áreas de conservación pero podrían servir como sitios protegidos para algunas especies de aves. En el occidente de África, las temperaturas se han incrementado y la precipitación ha decrecido. Estos cambios muy probablemente contribuirán a una mayor pérdida del hábitat apropiado para especies de aves de hábitats restringidos. Adicionalmente, las especies que actualmente se encuentran en hábitats de tierras bajas y montanos podrían ser forzadas a desplazarse a mayores elevaciones. De 53 especies de aves en hábitats de tierras bajas, cinco están en peligro, siete están casi amenazadas, 11 son vulnerables y una es deficiente en datos, lo que sugiere que ~44% de las especies de tierras bajas podrían tener un mayor riesgo de extinción. Todos los países con bosque G-C tienen grandes poblaciones humanas con altos índices de pobreza, recursos extraídos a tasas no-sostenibles y crecientes tasas de deforestación. Las redes de grandes áreas protegidas en África occidental y central, con controles mucho mayores sobre la extracción no-sostenible, se necesitan urgentemente para asegurar la conservación de las aves y, más ampliamente, la biodiversidad del bosque G-C.
Monitoring wildlife trade on social media can help understand patterns of legal and illegal trade and provide insights into the underpinning processes. Such information can be critical for informing strategies to reduce trade and mitigate associated harms. Psittacus parrots (Psittacus erithacus and Psittacus timneh) have been among the most intensely traded parrot species on the Appendices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), leading to extensive overexploitation and severe declines across West and Central Africa. In recent years, a multifaceted set of interventions have been implemented aimed at reducing trade both offline and online. Building on previous research into trade in wild-sourced Psittacus parrots on social media between 2014-2017 in a sample identified using traders known a priori to be major exporters Psittacus parrots, we surveyed posts by the same sample of users in the period 2018-2020, to create a retrospective longitudinal dataset of public online trade activity. Using this dataset, we explored temporal and spatial patterns of online trade activity and evaluated the potential role of interventions and other underlying factors in driving observed trends. After accounting for changes in page accessibility, we observed a decline of 94.6% in public posts indicating trade in wild-sourced Psittacus parrots between 2014 and 2020. There was no evident decline immediately following the listing of Psittacus parrots on CITES Appendix I at the start of 2017, which prohibited international trade in wild Psittacus parrots for commercial purposes. Rather, a sustained decline occurred from 2018 onwards, coinciding with additional CITES measures, enhanced efforts by law enforcement agencies, and the implementation of new policies by airlines and social media platforms. The decline was particularly pronounced in exporters, among whom posts featuring wild-sourced Psittacus parrots ceased altogether. However, posts do indicate ongoing trade activity in Iraq, Libya, Southern Asia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, highlighting locations where targeted interventions may be most effective. Our approach demonstrates how, with careful consideration of additional data and methodological biases, monitoring social media activity may be used more widely as a means of evaluating the effectiveness of wildlife trade interventions and polices.
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Unsustainable harvesting to supply the demand for pets is the second most significant threat to parrots (Psittacidae). Given that parrot keeping is widespread, in-depth and culturally sensitive research is needed to inform and develop interventions targeted at changing consumer preferences and purchasing behaviours. Parrot keeping is thought to be driven mainly by a desire for companionship (the affection hypothesis). Alternative hypotheses include a deeply ingrained culture of parrot ownership (the tradition hypothesis) or the influence of socio-economic context (the contextual hypothesis). We used the theory of planned behaviour to evaluate the relative importance of behavioural and contextual factors influencing the intention to keep the yellow-shouldered Amazon Amazona barbadensis as a pet. We interviewed 150 owners and non-owners of parrots in two locations in Macanao Peninsula, Margarita Island, Venezuela, where the primary population of this species is located. We found mixed evidence supporting both the affection and contextual hypotheses: intention to keep parrots was higher in non-owners with high education level, strong affective attitudes regarding human–animal relationships, and higher expectations about social norms (41% of explained variance). Our study expands previous research on the illegal parrot trade by taking into account behavioural measures beyond attitudes, highlighting the role of social norms frequently ignored in such research. We discuss how a behaviour change campaign could redirect affective attitudes in the human–parrot relationship, and promote new social norms that support parrot conservation. Future research should consider the inclusion of moral and injunctive norms, and monitoring of intervention effectiveness.
Parrots are the most traded birds internationally, mainly to be used as companion pets, which threatens the global biodiversity. Using the large dataset derived from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), we uncovered the spatial-temporal changes in trade volumes and sources of parrots, the topology of the trade network, and the factors behind the global parrot trade in the past 42 years (1975 – 2016). We found that more than 16 million live CITES-listed parrots in 321 species were traded internationally within that period. There were large changes in the temporal trend of global parrot trade volumes and spatial patterns of trade hubs. These changes appeared to be influenced by the trade restrictions in some of the leading traders and the occurrence of pandemic zoonosis, such as the H5N1 avian influenza. Developing states in Western and Southeast Asia have emerged as the most recently developed parrot trade hubs, with South Africa and Europe being some of the major suppliers. The sources of parrots being supplied internationally has also gradually shifted from wild-caught to captive-sourced. Wild-caught individuals of some parrot species, currently classified as Endangered, were traded substantially until 2013. We demonstrated that parrot species with larger wild population sizes, more color morphs, and those in the Least Concern category of the IUCN Red List, were being traded internationally in higher quantities. The GDP per capita and the aging index of states were also correlated with the net import quantities of parrots. Based on our findings, we suggested that greater scrutiny of parrots traded in large volumes, many of which are not monitored in the wild, should be considered. We advocate the uplisting of a few endangered species from Appendix II to I, using an accreditation system to prevent the laundering of wild-caught parrots into captive-bred ones, and conducting more research on newly emerged importers to protect wild parrot populations.
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Background Illegal trade in rare wildlife species is a major threat to many parrot species around the world. Wildlife forensics plays an important role in the preservation of endangered or threatened wildlife species. Identification of illegally harvested or traded animals through DNA techniques is one of the many methods used during forensic investigations. Natural populations of the South African endemic Cape Parrot ( Poicephalus robustus ) are negatively affected by the removal of eggs and chicks for the pet trade. Methods In this study, 16 microsatellite markers specifically designed for the South African endemic Cape Parrot ( P. robustus ) are assessed for their utility in forensic casework. Using these 16 loci, the genetic diversity of a subset of the captive Cape Parrot population was also assessed and compared to three wild Cape Parrot populations. Results It was determined that the full 16 locus panel has sufficient discriminatory power to be used in parentage analyses and can be used to determine if a bird has been bred in captivity and so can be legally traded or if it has been illegally removed from the wild. In cases where birds have been removed from the wild, this study suggests that a reduced 12 locus microsatellite panel has sufficient power to assign confiscated birds to geographic population of origin. Discussion The level of genetic diversity observed within the captive Cape Parrot population was similar to that observed in the wild populations, which suggests that the captive population is not suffering from decreased levels of genetic diversity. The captive Cape Parrots did however have double the number of private alleles compared to that observed in the most genetically diverse wild population. This is probably due to the presence of rare alleles present in the founder population, which has not been lost due to genetic drift, as many of the individuals tested in this study are F1–F3 wild descendants. The results from this study provide a suit of markers that can be used to aid conservation and law enforcement authorities to better control legal and illegal trade of this South African endemic.
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Wildlife trade is currently the most important and increasing source of vertebrate invasive species. However, exhaustive analyses of potential side effects of trade regulations on this pathway of introduction are lacking. We addressed this by combining environmental niche models and global trade data on parrots (Psittaciformes), one of the most widely traded and worldwide invasive taxa. We used the wild bird trade bans of USA (1992) and Europe (2005) as case-studies. Results showed that regional bans can generate geographic redirections in trade, with important consequences on worldwide invasion risk. While the amount of parrots traded internationally remained largely constant, changes in trade destination occurred. Consequently, the world surface predicted at risk of parrot invasions increased with successive bans. Of concern, a redirection of trade towards developing countries was observed. Attention should be paid on the mismatch between the global requirements of invasion management and the regional scales governing trade regulations.
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The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) regulates trade in over 35,000 species, over 70% of which are orchids. To investigate rule-breaking behavior among traders and buyers in a specific international wildlife trading community, we used direct questions (DQs) and the unmatched count technique (UCT) to survey the orchid growing community about CITES compliance and their knowledge and opinions of the rules. In DQ, 9.9% had smuggled, 4.8% had laundered, and 10.8% had been sent orchids from online purchases without paperwork; UCT estimates did not differ significantly. Growers with greater knowledge of CITES rules were more likely to break them, and there were widespread negative views of CITES among respondents. We recommend targeted enforcement fo-cusing on both online trade and at the point of import, coupled with efforts to encourage traders and end-consumers to engage with discussions on CITES rule implementation
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The pangolin is greatly sought after for its various body parts, largely driven by demand from China. The mammal has been driven to the edge of extinction in Asia, with two Asian species listed as Critically Endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. With declining Asian pangolin populations, a shift in trade from Asian to African pangolin species has been suggested. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Trade Database provides a unique opportunity to investigate global trends in pangolin trade at the species level, across a broad temporal scale (1977–2014). We found that CITES trade in Asian pangolin species decreased through time, whilst trade in African species increased post 2000. The total number of incidents involving Asian species declined since 2000, yet they were still being traded in large volumes (more than 17,500 estimated whole Asian pangolins were traded from 2001 to 2014) despite a zero export quota for all wild sourced Asian species, traded for primarily commercial purposes. In 2014 all eight pangolin species were recorded in the CITES trade for the first time. An increasingly complex international network was identified through time, with the United States of America (US) being the dominant player in the global pangolin trade that was reported to CITES. The US was the most frequent trade country throughout the entire period and was the greatest importer of pangolins, and their products; measured both in volume as well as frequency. We hope that identifying these global trade network characteristics, and pangolin trade dynamics will help to inform pangolin conservation efforts, and guide enforcement and legislative changes in the future.
The wildlife pet trade is a billion dollar transnational business that has devastating effects on global biodiversity. Australian parrots are highly sought by overseas collectors due to their uniqueness, however, the characteristics of this demand are poorly understood. We used trade reports to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Trade Database to analyse spatial and temporal trends in live commercial trade of Australian endemic parrots. We also investigated whether the volume of trade is influenced by variables related to species availability and popularity in Australia, and ease of captive breeding. We collected information on over 20,000 transactions for the period 1975–2014. Between the years 2000 and 2005 the volume of trade sharply declined, possibly due to the effect of international bird trade bans as a response to the avian influenza crisis. Australia has a minimal role in the trade of its own endemic parrots, even before the passing of the Australian Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999 that banned the export of native wildlife. Key international exporters are Netherlands (25.8% of all exports) and Belgium (17.5%), and captive breeding is the major source. The USA (7.5% of all imports) and Japan (7.3%) are key importers, and Netherlands, USA and South Africa are also major intermediaries. Species that have larger Australian distributions, and species abundant in Australian private and public captivity, are traded internationally in higher volumes. International trade in Australian endemic parrots is an example of an exotic pet market that is sustainably supplied by overseas captive breeding, while native populations are effectively protected by genuine national trade bans.
There are few published studies quantifying the volume of wildlife being traded through Singapore. We report on Singapore's involvement in the trade of avifauna listed on CITES based on government-reported data to CITES, with particular emphasis on Singapore's role in the trade of the globally threatened African grey parrot Psittacus erithacus . During 2005–2014 Singapore reported commercial import permits for 225,561 birds, from 35 countries, listed on CITES Appendices I and II, and the export of 136,912 similarly listed birds to 37 countries, highlighting the country's role as a major international transshipment hub for the global aviculture industry. Major exporters to Singapore included the Solomon Islands, the Netherlands, Taiwan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Africa. Major importers from Singapore included Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates and Japan. Singapore imported significant quantities of CITES-listed birds from African countries, including the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea and South Africa, a number of which have a history of abuse of CITES export permits, discrepancies in reported trade data, or an acknowledged lack of wildlife law enforcement capacity. Significant discrepancies were detected between import and export figures of CITES-listed avifauna reported by Singapore and its trading partners. Based on these findings we present three recommendations to improve the regulation and monitoring of the trade in CITES-listed bird species in Singapore.