The Last of Cameroon’s Grey Parrots
Grey parrots are found only in the rainforests of West and Central Africa, but they’re prized as pets in countries around the world. People are captivated by their beautiful colors, gentle nature and ability to mimic humans. But demand for the birds could be threatening their very existence.
The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) estimates that 450,000 of the birds were captured and exported from Africa between 1994 and 2003. The number would be even higher if it included illegal exports. Seeing the danger of extinction, many countries in Europe, North America and Africa have banned trade in grey parrots. Cameroon issued a ban three years ago. But conservationists say the measures have failed to reduce the trade. Illegal operations have continued and have even increased.
Ofir Drori is the director of LAGA, a wildlife law enforcement group that’s helping the government of Cameroon. He says despite the ban, at least 1,000 parrots are exported from Cameroon every month. Traffickers go through the Gulf of Aden. By moving the birds from one country to the other, the traffickers can eventually get them to Europe and the United States and designate them as locally bred. “Trafficking in African grey parrots has become an organized crime,” says Drori. “It is a very, very lucrative trade. The margin of illegal revenue from trade in this species is very high, sometimes more than trade in ivory, which has a better international profile.
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