First name Last Name Will Travers


First name Last Name Adam M. Roberts

For Immediate Release:

24 Nov 2005


Washington, DC-In the face of a global media furor over the increasing connection between the bird trade and disease transmission, the Species Survival Network, a global coalition of wildlife conservation and animal protection organizations (, decided today to set the record straight. “There is no evidence that the European Union moratorium on bird imports will either harm wild bird populations or spur increased smuggling of potentially diseased birds” noted Will Travers, SSN President. “Prohibitions on legal trade reduce opportunities for laundering of illegally acquired birds and reduce smuggling.”

Travers’ comments refuted unsubstantiated claims made by the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (“CITES”) that a moratorium on the import of captive birds adopted by the European Union to prevent transmission of H5N1 avian influenza will impair bird conservation efforts or spur increased smuggling. The SSN is concerned that the CITES Secretariat has made several factual errors and unproven assumptions in statements released to the press.

The bird trade provides an ideal environment for the spread of diseases, including avian influenza. Live captive birds of various species have transmitted the H5N1 virus among countries and continents. Stress, and the crowding prior to and during transport, increase the expression and transmission of infection. SSN believes the European Commission’s decision to adopt a moratorium on bird imports during the current outbreak is a reasonable precautionary measure.

“Species from different countries are commonly mixed during trade or quarantine,” noted Ann Michels, Co-Chair of the SSN Bird Working Group. “This creates a very real risk that birds originating in disease-free countries or regions may become infected before entering the market.” Taiwanese authorities have stated that there is a good possibility that the true source of a recent shipment of infected mesias (an Asian songbird) from Taiwan was China. The infected birds may have been laundered into the legal bird trade in Taiwan, a supposedly H5N1-free area, and exported to the United Kingdom. A similar transaction occurred in 1998, when diseased birds were laundered through Malaysia into a legal shipment bound for Japan.

SSN supports the prohibitions on the import of live captive birds adopted by the European Union, Malaysia, Ukraine, Bangladesh, the Philippines and others in order to reduce possible transmission of avian flu. Michels continued, “SSN joins international organizations such as the Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species and BirdLife International in recognizing the threat posed by the continued international trade in live wild birds and calls for a suspension of trade.”

Editor’s notes:

  • Detailed analysis of the Myths and Facts behind the connection between bird trade and disease transmission are available from SSN.
  • Further information can be found at
  • The Species Survival Network (SSN), founded in 1992, is an international coalition of over eighty non-governmental organizations (NGOs) committed to the promotion, enhancement, and strict enforcement of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Through scientific and legal research, education and advocacy, the SSN is working to prevent over-exploitation of animals and plants due to international trade.
  • The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) treaty was first signed in 1973 in order to protect certain species of wildlife and plants against over-exploitation through trade. The international wildlife trade is worth billions of dollars annually and has been responsible for the decline of wild populations of a number of species of animals and plants.

SSN Statement on H5N1 and The Wild Bird Trade