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Over-loved African Grey Parrot gains new protections

A pet African Grey Parrot.
A pet African Grey Parrot by Keith Allison (Wikimedia Commons).

African Grey Parrots are being loved to death. Their intelligence and longevity make them popular as pets (above), and overharvest for the pet trade is devastating populations in the wild.

Fortunately, nations gathered at the world’s largest and most important wildlife-trade conference have handed the birds a lifeline. They granted the parrots increased protections under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES member nations voted to increase protections for Grey Parrots in a proposal co-sponsored by the United States.

“Increased CITES protections come not a minute too soon for African Grey Parrots,” says USFWS Director Dan Ashe. He is the head of the U.S. delegation to the treaty’s 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17), in Johannesburg, South Africa. “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.”

Thriving wild populations of the African Grey Parrot were once widespread throughout west and central Africa, but ravenous demand for the pet trade, combined with deforestation for timber, fuelwood, and agricultural expansion, has caused the species to be eliminated from much of its west African range. Today, the largest populations are now found only in central Africa.

The Johannesburg vote moves the parrots from Appendix II of the convention to Appendix I, the most restrictive of the CITES designations, which prohibits international commercial trade.


The vote still needs to be finalized, but Ashe is confident the strength of the science supporting the Appendix I listing will ensure the protections will be upheld.

CITES is an international agreement initiated in 1973 and since agreed to by 182 countries and the European Union to protect certain wild animals and plants against over-exploitation as a result of international trade. More than 35,000 species of animals and plants benefit from CITES protection.

Species protected by CITES fall under one of three appendices. Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction and provides the greatest level of protection, including restrictions on commercial trade.

Appendix II includes species that are not currently threatened with extinction but may become so without trade controls.


Appendix III includes species protected by at least one country that needs assistance from other parties to control trade.

CoP17 is taking place September 24 through October 5, 2016.

See reader photos of parrots.


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