Photo: Keith Allison / Flickr

As part of Born Free USA’s 15th annual National Bird Day on January 5, 2017, the global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation is celebrating the 2016 victory for the African grey parrot at this year’s meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). On October 2, 2016, in a contentious debate, Parties to CITES voted in a rare secret ballot to extend a full, international commercial trade ban to the endangered African grey parrot.

According to Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, “The alarming crisis facing the endangered African grey parrot may have been stopped in its tracks by the decision made by CITES Parties to demonstrably reduce trade. Like the other one-third of parrot species facing extinction today, African grey parrot populations are plummeting due to the international pet trade and habitat loss. These parrots are intelligent with an extraordinary capacity to learn human words and mimic the human voice, but they still belong in the wild—not traded and sold as pets. What better time than National Bird Day to shine a light on this incredible animal and raise awareness for captive-bred birds everywhere. We want to use this day to remind the public that there is still significant work to be done for the millions of exotic birds bred in captivity in unregulated, often miserable conditions.”

Over the last four decades, 2-3 million African grey parrots have been taken from the wild and more than 1.3 million African grey parrots have been exported from Africa. In Ghana alone, the African grey parrot population has shrunk by 90-99% since 1992. Although all commercial international trade in wild-caught African grey parrots is now banned, international trade in captive-bred birds may still be allowed if the facility registers with CITES.

This international trade ban will bolster a domestic prohibition enacted decades ago, thanks to the Wild Bird Conservation Act. This law was signed by President George H. W. Bush in 1992 and largely prohibits the import of the majority of wild-caught, exotic birds. However, there remains a lack of regulation on the breeding, transport, and care of exotic birds bred in captivity within the U.S. That is just one of the reasons why Born Free USA urges the public to not buy exotic birds.

Roberts explains, “Dogs and cats split from their wild ancestors tens of thousands of years ago, but captive-bred exotic birds are absolutely no different from their relatives still in the wild. As they retain their wild instincts and behaviors, they are not equipped for life in captivity. In a captive atmosphere, they are restricted from their most basic instincts, like flying and being part of a flock. Many of these species have similar lifespans to humans and frequently outlive their owners. Most often, people are not prepared for the responsibility and burden that comes with owning a parrot or other exotic bird. Often, the end result is a bird who is either abandoned or forced to spend his or her life neglected, lonely, and bored. If you feel prepared and ready for a bird in your home, rescue one from an overcrowded avian shelter or sanctuary.”

National Bird Day is a time to celebrate birds for the true wild animals they are. Roberts adds, “Think outside the cage by viewing and sharing live webcams and videos of birds in the wild, or simply go outside and enjoy native birds.”

For more information on how to celebrate the wildness of all birds and help birds in captivity, please visit www.nationalbirdday.org. For bird owners looking for support, visit www.nationalbirdday.org/a_happy_bird.php.

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