The US Fish and Wildlife Service recently received an application submitted under the Wild Bird Conservation Act requesting authorization to import 4,000 grey parrots from South Africa to establish a grey parrot cooperative breeding program in Florida. The applicants claim that their proposed breeding program is necessary to satiate the alleged high demand for these birds in the United States and that it will have no adverse impacts on wild grey parrot populations. AWI opposes this application and finds that it is driven by a single motive—commercial profit.
In 2016, in response to increasing threats to the African grey parrot from the international pet trade and habitat loss in West and Central Africa, parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) moved grey parrots from Appendix II to Appendix I of the treaty. This new designation generally prohibits commercial trade in the species with some exceptions, including one for birds bred in captivity. Instead of helping to conserve the species, however, this exception harms it by permitting the laundering of wild-caught parrots as captive bred or legally acquired.
Reversing the decline of grey parrots in the wild will not be accomplished through increased breeding of grey parrots in captivity. Grey parrot breeding mills have no conservation value, and the high cost of captive breeding creates incentives to capture and trade wild-caught birds to meet demand.
The proposal to establish a new grey parrot breeding mill in Florida suffers from numerous deficiencies, including significant welfare concerns for the wild-caught birds captured, transported, and then used for captive breeding, as well as for their descendants, many of whom will suffer from improper care. Saving grey parrots in the wild requires protecting their habitat in Africa and enforcing laws prohibiting their capture and trade.