SINT MAARTEN/DOMINCA - The bird conservation group BirdsCaribbean released a statement questioning the export of rare parrots from Dominica to Germany. BirdsCaribbean also joined over a dozen international groups asking the United Nations to investigate the export and help return the parrots to their native island.
In March of this year, twelve wild parrots of two rare species were exported to Germany. They were taken from an aviary where they were recovering after Hurricane Maria hit Dominica in September 2017. Both species, the Sisserou and the Jaco, are found only in Dominica. The Sisserou is Dominica’s national bird and it appears on Dominica’s flag. The exports shocked bird experts on Dominica and around the world.
“We are alarmed by this and we hope to bring these birds back to Dominica,” said BirdsCaribbean Executive Director Lisa Sorenson. “We also want to prevent the future trafficking of rare birds under the pretense of conservation.”
The group that took the parrots, Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots, claimed it was an emergency measure to start a captive breeding program in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Bird experts questioned this reason and the legal basis for the export.
On their website, BirdsCaribbean describes the many problems with the export. Captive breeding programs can help some rare species, but it seems unlikely in this case. Post-Maria, both kinds of parrots are recovering in the wild on Dominica. The aviary birds taken were healthy and expected to be ready for release back into the wild soon.
The number of parrots taken, including just 2 Sisserou parrots, is too few to start a breeding program. This raises questions about the scientific merit of the actions and if there are plans for capturing and exporting more birds in the future.
The parrots had the care they needed in local facilities on Dominica. It is better to help parrots in their home country with help from outside as needed. Local authorities and the people of Dominica are the ultimate stewards of these species and should be empowered as such.
BirdsCaribbean and others have questions about the legality of the export. Usually, many experts take part in the decision to start a captive breeding program and there are strict rules for the trade of endangered species. This export was a surprise to all. It is also unclear if proper permits were obtained to export the parrots.
The full statement by BirdsCaribbean is on BirdsCaribbean.org.
CUTLINE: Rescued and rehabilitated Jaco parrots at the aviary in Dominica. (Photo by Stephen Durand)