BONAIRE — An illegal collection of 112 parrots believed to be destined for neighboring Curaçao was seized by a rapid response task force consisting of STINAPA Bonaire, the national parks authority of Bonaire and the island’s police department. Now a team from Echo, Bonaire’s parrot conservation organisation, is fighting to save the lives these starving parrot chicks, 90 of which need feeding by hand.
On Friday July 1st, STINAPA Bonaire followed a tip and seized a group of 112 parrots from an illegal pet trader. Several small boxes of starving parrot chicks and dirty cages full of parrots were confiscated. The parrots were the endangered Yellow-shouldered Amazon Parrots (Amazona barbadensis) and Brown-throated Parakeets (Aratinga pertinax xanthogenius), both native to Bonaire.
The parrots were released to Echo, who immediately began feeding the malnourished and un-weaned baby birds. Although unprepared the Echo team have coped with the tremendous strain and are succeeding to keep the parrots alive. Volunteers have been recruited but further assistance is urgently needed.
“The parrots require regular feeds and with 112 babies begging at us we really do have our work cut out,” said Dr Sam Williams, Director of Echo. “On the first night we worked late into the night with head torches and lanterns as we quickly adapted our field site. Many of the chicks were starving and one parrot was already dead but still in one of the cages. They had been kept in appalling conditions and we suspect without food for several days”.
The illegal collection of parrot chicks is a big problem throughout the world and Bonaire is no exception. The Echo team’s observations over the last six years show that one-third of parrot chicks are illegally collected by people before they leave the nest. This is despite the collection of wild parrots being against the law on Bonaire since 1952.
Bonaire’s population of endangered Yellow-shouldered Amazon Parrots is globally significant for the species. The parrots are also found in Venezuela but there poaching is so intense the populations are in decline. People have already been responsible for the extinction of this species from Aruba in the 1940s. Having already successfully released confiscated parrots back into the wild on Bonaire, Echo will now look at the exciting possibility of re-introducing some of these confiscated parrots on Aruba.
Parrots are considered next to the great apes in terms of their intelligence. Recent studies have demonstrated they can even work together to solve problems. There are serious moral and ethical issues with removing the young of such intelligent animals from their parents and then confining them to captivity for their long lives (potentially 50+ years).
“We are sure these birds were destined to be sold as pets because some of the parrots have closed rings. It is only possible to put these on small chicks”. Notes Dr. Sam Williams: “What is really very interesting is these rings could lead us to the trader responsible for the collection of these wild birds who is mascaqrading as a parrot breeder!”
In response to the needs of the parrots the World Parrot Trust has donated an immediate $1,000 of through their Fly Free program to enable the Echo team to care for the 112 parrots. It is hoped all 112 of these birds will be released back into the wild in the near future.
Bonaire’s government has made good first steps to prevent the illegal capture and trade in parrots by implementing a pet parrot amnesty and registration campaign in 2002. All pet parrots were ringed and subsequently any person found to have a pet without a ring faces prosecution and confiscation. Earlier this year support from Fly Free made it possible for Echo to successfully rehabilitate and release 11 confiscated illegal pet parrots.
As of 10/10/10 an agreement was made whereby the island of Bonaire was incorporated administratively into existing Dutch provinces in Holland. As part of this process the Dutch government insisted on a number of tough ‘good governance’ stipulations. CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments aiming to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. The Yellow-shouldered Amazon Parrot is a CITES listed species. The Dutch government should insist on CITES enforcement on Bonaire given that they are signatories to the convention and are advocates of good governance. Because Curacao is now a separate country with direct ties to Holland, it is of great importance to the Netherlands that the kingdom islands are not facilitating trade in endangered species. Both the national government and the Bonaire government should ensure perpetrators of illegal poaching are caught and punished according to their crime.
The parrots confiscated in this seizure will be fed and cared for until they are rehabilitated. Because of Echo’s successful earlier release, Dr. Williams is confident the parrots will be make it back to the wild where they belong.
Some of the younger Yellow-shouldered Amazon Parrots will be placed with “foster parrots” in wild nests as soon as they are healthy. This will make it possible for them fledge with the other chicks hatched this season.
Echo desperately needs donations to care for the birds and make their rehabilitation and release possible. Your support can make the difference. Please donate today!