Ban on wild bird trade essential

It is illegal to import live wild birds or birds for pets in Seychelles  After the spread of the avian flu, the local authorities have maintained the ban on imports of all live birds. We have been fortunate to avoid some of the more serious consequences of the irresponsible movement of wild birds. Although some species have been lost from these islands, the trade in live birds has not been one of the reasons. We had the foresight to outlaw these practices before any damage was done. Other countries have paid the price for not doing the same.

Worldwide, it is legal to trade in many wild bird species, and where this is sustainable, and does not put at risk the continued survival of the species being traded, it is argued that it provides important income for some communities. However, this legal trade is often used to disguise a more lucrative and sinister illegal trade, and makes it very difficult and expensive to police or to crack down on unscrupulous law breakers.

The wild bird trade has been implicated as one of the culprits in the spread of the bird flu . One of the measures introduced in Europe to prevent the possible spread of bird flu has been a temporary ban of the import of wild birds. Nature Seychelles’ UK partner the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has called for the ban to be made permanent. This followed the death, from the disease, of a parrot in quarantine, which highlighted the risk posed by the import of wild-caught birds into the European Union.

The wild bird trade has brought several tropical species to the brink of extinction. The beautiful Spix's Macaw is already extinct in the wild largely because of the trade. Results of a 2001 study in South America showed that a ban on the import of rare birds into the United States in 1992 significantly reduced poaching of wild parrots in South America. Opponents of the measure said that it would drive the trade underground. This did not happen.

Recent studies study in Asia and Africa support the American findings. The trade in imported wild birds is putting many of them at risk and there is no evidence that a ban on bird imports would drive this trade underground. It is a dangerous back-door route for avian flu to spread

The trade in rare wild birds was banned in the US in 1992 and at that time the US was the biggest importer (50 per cent) of wild parrots. As a result of the ban, poaching of young parrots in South America dropped significantly. So rather than driving the wild bird trade underground, the US move caused the whole trade to decline. Most of these birds could be bred in captivity, so there should be no need for the pet trade to rely on birds captured in the wild.

Nature Seychelles, 15 February 2006, Seychelles.

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