Washington, DC — Today, Connecticut-based advocacy group Friends of Animals, together with the environmental clinic at Denver University’s Sturm College of Law, petitioned the Secretary of the Interior to domestically and internationally protect tropical birds most wanted by pet traders.
“Listing these birds under the U.S. Endangered Species Act,” said DU Environmental Law Clinic director Jay Tutchton, “will head off poachers and collectors, increase funding and attention for research and habitat protection, and draw scrutiny to projects proposed by U.S. government and lending agencies worldwide.”
Named in the Petition are Hyacinth macaws, Blue-throated and Blue-headed macaws, Military macaws, Grey-cheeked parakeets, Yellow-billed parrots, Red-crowned parrots, Thick-billed parrots, Crimson shining parrots, Great green macaws and Scarlet macaws as well as Philippine, White, and Yellow-crested cockatoos.
Lee Hall, legal director for Friends of Animals, said, “The pet trade threatens the continued survival as well as the freedom of these birds, beings who must also cope on habitat desired by ranchers and energy developers. The U.S. market for these birds must be closed.”
Notwithstanding the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and U.S. law, traders can obtain many of these birds with permits. Trappers may set snares on perches, use ladders to raid nests, set the bases of trees afire to flush birds out, and shoot adult birds in the wing to allow capture.
Chicks are especially prized. Collectors will even cut down trees to get to them — killing 60% of the chicks as the trees fall, and depriving birds of future nesting sites. Most surviving birds die in transit between traders.
Said Kay Bond, the Law Clinic attorney who supervises the law students drafting and preparing to litigate the petition, “We expect a positive initial finding on our petition within 90 days, and we hope the Secretary will act before one or more of these communities of birds go extinct due to the pet trade.”
Where they live: Yellow-billed parrots live in the wet limestone forests of Jamaica. Red-crowned parrots live along the northeast Mexican coasts, a population in Veracruz having disappeared. Thick-billed parrots once lived in the southwestern U.S. but are now seen only in Mexico. Military macaws live in fragmented canyon and forest habitat from Mexico to Peru, having disappeared from Argentina. Blue-throated macaws live in Bolivian palm groves; Grey-cheeked parakeets live in coastal areas along the border between Ecuador and Peru. Hyacinth macaws live on the edges of Brazilian palm forests, while blue-headed macaws live in parts of Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia.
Scarlet Macaws are found in pockets throughout Central and South America; only about every two years do they lay two to four eggs. Once widespread throughout Central and South America, Great green macaws are now only found in pockets in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. Less than 2500 free-living Great Green macaws are left. In Costa Rica, only 25-35 pairs remain; in Ecuador, they number less than 100 individuals. They’ve been seen bagged for sale in Nicaraguan markets.
Crimson shining parrots live in forests and agricultural lands as well as around human habitation on the islands of Fiji. Yellow-crested and White cockatoos live in Indonesia where they are suffering the effects of the pet trade and habitat destruction. Philippine cockatoos are currently found on only a handful of islands within their historic range.
The Environmental Law Clinical Clinic in the Student Law Office at University of Denver, Sturm College of Law provides free legal representation to environmental and animal-advocacy non-profits, while simultaneously providing a real-world learning experience for the law students who represent these public interest organizations.