African grey parrots are incredibly intelligent, beautiful, popular and being hunted to critical numbers in the wild. Now, this bird has a chance to escape the trapper’s net and fly free.
A vote during a worldwide wildlife summit could give wild African greys increased protection, according to a press release by the U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service. Member countries meeting for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Oct. 2, in Johannesburg, South Africa, elected to change the classification of the birds to curb declining populations in the wild.
The affirmative vote moves these parrots from Appendix II to Appendix I, the most restrictive category and one that prohibits international commercial trade. It is up for finalization at a session later in the week.
Over the past 40 years, between 2 and 3 million African grey parrots have been taken from the wild, according to The Guardian. West and Central Africa once saw large wild populations of African greys; however, under CITES Appendix II protections those numbers declined.
The pet trade demand and deforestation of native habitat for timber, fuelwood and agricultural expansion has led to decimated populations in the native west African range, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“Increased CITES protections come not a minute too soon for African grey parrots,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe, head of the U.S. delegation, said in a press release. “During the past 25 years, more than 1.5 million wild African greys have been taken from their native habitats, making them one of the most traded of all CITES-listed parrots.”
The United States co-sponsored the proposal with other countries seeking support for the Appendix I-listing: Angola, Chad, the European Union, Gabon, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo. It was adopted in a vote with 95 countries in support, 35 opposed, and five abstentions.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, the country with the biggest African grey population, staunchly fought the ban, according to The Guardian. It said the foundation of the proposal was a “doubtful hypothesis yet to be proved.”
Captive-bred birds can still be traded but only if facilities register with CITES, The Guardian reports.