MEXICO CITY - February 14 - U.S. consumer demand for certain imperiled Mexican parrot species could be a major factor in their extinction if current trends continue, according to a new report titled The Illegal Parrot Trade in Mexico: A Comprehensive Assessment released today by Defenders of Wildlife. Of the top 10 Mexican parrot species that are smuggled into the United States, five are endangered, two are threatened and one is under special protection in Mexico.
"Clearly this is not a sustainable market. Smuggling of certain endangered parrots, such as the yellow headed parrot and the yellow naped parrot, into the United States is increasing, and this demand is pushing already depleted parrot populations in Mexico to the brink of extinction," says Juan Carlos Cantu Guzman, manager of the Mexico program at Defenders of Wildlife and lead author of the report. "Birds are being taken from the wild, sometimes plucked right out of the nest, and dying at alarming rates for sale in the pet trade. Next to habitat loss, parrot trapping posses the greatest threat to the birds' survival in Mexico."
In one of the most detailed examinations ever of any illegal animal trade, the report estimates that Mexican parrot trappers illegally capture roughly 65,000 to 78,500 parrots annually. About 75 percent of these die from stress, disease, rough handling, crushing, asphyxiation or dehydration during capture and transport before reaching the consumer. In many instances, 50 parrots are stuffed in a shipping container barely larger than a shoe box for days on end until they reach the market. Estimates for the number of parrots smuggled into the United States are as high as 9,400 each year. Many of these are sick, injured, dying or severely traumatized. None of these birds have proper legal documentation and are sold without the required health examination and quarantine to identify potential disease risks.
Populations of high-demand parrot species have decreased by 25 percent to 30 percent and have disappeared entirely from many regions. For example, the yellow naped parrot has not been found in the Mexican state of Oaxaca for several years.
Defenders' report identifies several different routes frequented by parrot smugglers to get the birds across the border into the United States. The most common routes are the Gulf Coast trade route, which ends in southern Texas in Brownsville, Eagle Pass, El Paso, Laredo or McAllen. Smugglers who choose to take the Pacific route, which hugs the coastline, are most commonly destined for Tijuana or Tucson, Ariz. Parrots are trafficked through airports across the nation as well. The main ports of entry are Chicago, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City and San Francisco.
"We will not stop the illegal parrot trade without a well-publicized and permanent ban on trapping," said Cantu Guzman. "This, in combination with more resources and support for wildlife agencies on both sides of the border, could drastically reduce illegal parrot trapping and trade. We also need extensive public education efforts by these same agencies to make consumers aware of parrot trafficking and reduce demand for certain species."
Additionally, the report suggests as solutions captive breeding programs focused on parrots not native to Mexico but still valued by bird-lovers, a program to turn parrot trappers into eco-tour leaders, and enforcement of existing conservation programs. However, Cantu Guzman points out that creating new regulatory programs and enforcing the laws in this huge developing nation and along a porous border will be difficult without significantly greater funding.
"Unfortunately, our love and desire for Mexico's beautiful parrots is going to drive them towards extinction if we don't take these steps to stop their illegal capture and sale," said Cantu Guzman.
Defenders of Wildlife urges U.S. consumers not to purchase parrots that lack proper documentation so as not to inadvertently support the illegal parrot trade. Be sure to obtain documentation on the parrot before making a purchase. This will tell you if it was imported or captive bred here in the U.S. Legal documentation of imported parrots includes two forms—a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) declaration form and a CITES permit that prove the bird has legally been brought into the United States. The FWS declaration form will include the scientific and common name of the parrot, the date of import, the port of import, the parrot's permit number, country of origin, breeder, value and, most importantly, clearance from FWS. In addition to this important documentation, consumers should check the parrot for closed bands around its legs. Without a leg band to identify the bird, an export permit could be used to smuggle illegally captured parrots. Pet stores may or may not have this information on hand, so take the time to research breeders and suppliers before purchasing a parrot.
There are no blanket forms or documentation for parrots that U.S. breeders are required to use, but if a breeder claims that a parrot has been bred in the United States there are a few things you should request. Reputable breeders will keep records of their parrot stock, successful breedings, specific information on the clutches of eggs and dates of birth for their birds. Again, consumers should check the parrot for closed bands around its legs. These are rings that can only be put on the bird when it is a chick and that have the information of the breeding facility.
The full report can be found at www.defenders.org/mexicanparrot.
Top 10 (of 22) Mexican parrot species seized in the United States, 1992-2005
|Yellow headed parrot||Endangered ||546 ||34.00|
|Orange fronted parakeet||Special protection ||483 ||30.28|
|Lilac crowned parrot||Threatened ||173 ||10.77|
|Red lored parrot||Unclassified ||110 ||6.85|
|White fronted parrot
||Unclassified ||100 ||6.23|
|Red crowned parrot||Endangered ||59 ||3.67|
|Yellow naped parrot||Endangered ||37 ||2.30|
|Thick billed parrot||Endangered ||26 ||1.61|
|Military macaw||Endangered ||16 ||0.99|
|Green parakeet||Threatened ||13 ||0.80|
Source: USFWS LEMIS reports, 1992-2005