(London)—The Species Survival Network (SSN) today applauded the European Union’s historic decision to prohibit the importation of wild-caught birds permanently. This action, effective 1 July 2007, was taken by the European Commission’s Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCOFCAH).
“The SCOFCAH wisely recognized that the international bird trade provides an ideal environment for the spread of infectious diseases due to stress and crowding prior to and during transport,” stated Will Travers, SSN President. “This ban will benefit both human health and the conservation of exotic birds around the globe.”
Prior to 2005, the EU was the world’s largest importer of wild birds—accounting for nearly one million CITES-listed birds each year, or 87% of the global trade. In November 2005, the EU adopted a temporary moratorium on imports in response to the detection of the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of avian influenza at a quarantine facility operated by a British bird trader.
“In addition to the threat of disease transmission,” Travers continued, “the international trade in wild birds puts countless species at increased risk of serious population declines. We must not stand idly by while magnificent avian species suffer gravely.”
Approximately 57% of the world’s threatened parrots and one in ten Globally Threatened Birds are negatively impacted by trade. The EU’s import prohibition will reinforce trade regulations already in place under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which unfortunately applies to only a fraction of the bird species in trade. For example, CITES does not currently apply to any neotropical migrants even though these birds are believed to be traded in large numbers.
“This ban brings EU policy for wild bird imports into line with the protective approach of the EU Birds Directive, which since 1979 has prohibited the capture of native European bird species for commercial trade,” stated Daniela Freyer, Coordinator of the SSN European Regional Bureau. “We hope other nations will follow the EU, Australia, Canada, Israel, Sweden and the USA in partially or fully restricting import of wild-caught birds for the pet trade.”
Although the sheer number of birds traded means the new ban will have tremendous benefits for the conservation of wild bird populations, its economic impact will be modest because the global value of the trade is small. “There is not one example of trade in wild birds that has provided sufficient resources to fund adequate, science-based monitoring and management of an exploited wild bird population,” stated Ann Michels, Co-Chair of the SSN Bird Working Group.
Click here to view SSN’s detailed rebuttal of claims by the CITES Secretariat that the wild bird trade is carefully regulated and that the EU prohibition on wild bird imports will impair bird conservation efforts or spur increased smuggling.