SA can save African grey

27 September 2016 - 08:49

South Africa's trade in the iconic African grey parrot may be contributing to the bird's decline, say conservation campaigners participating in the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to Cites, in Johannesburg.

South Africa is the world leader in the export of captive-bred African grey parrots - up to 80,000 a year - and has, to date, declined to support a proposal to confer a greater conservation status to the species; an Appendix 1 listing, as opposed to Appendix 2.

The proposal goes to the vote at the CITES conference next week, by which time conservationists are hoping to have lobbied local stakeholders to support the bid.

If it succeeds, South Africa will be required to register and monitor all African grey captive-breeding facilities to reduce trade.

Campaigners say up to 99% of wild African greys have been lost in parts of west Africa, and central Africa appears to be following suit.

A large number of South Africa's captive-bred African greys are exported to the Middle East where they are typically sold as pets.

The birds are sold for thousands of rand with some being advertised on Gumtree for R4000.

South Africa's support would strengthen the proposal, although such a move is unlikely.

"They (South Africa) haven't made an official statement but it is likely they will oppose it.

"This would be very unfortunate. We were hoping, and still do, that they would support it and take a lead," said Rowan Martin, Africa programme director for the World Parrot Trust.

Without properly registered facilities and monitoring it was more difficult to eradicate the trade from wild sources, Martin said.

Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network, TRAFFIC, has lent its support to the African grey proposal.

But Eugene Lapointe, president of the International Wildlife Management Consortium, warned against total prohibition.

"Prohibition has never worked, be it for alcohol or for wild animal species," Lapointe said.