Thousands of African gray parrots rescued from traffickers in Congo (video)

© WCS/YouTube

Wildlife Conservation Society and Bronx Zoo are treating the purloined parrots at a specially built care facility; some 900 have been released back into the wild.

As the price of wild parrots on the illegal market has quintupled over the last year, African forests are being stripped clean of the iconic birds. Employing a method that may haunt your dreams, wildlife traffickers catch the parrots in glue traps, sometimes by the hundreds. It is a harsh reality that leads to the death of an estimated 20 parrots for every one that makes it into a cage in someone’s home.

The situation is dismal; once quite abundant, African grey parrot populations have plummeted throughout their range in West, Central and East Africa. They are extremely rare or locally extinct in Benin, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Togo.

“In Ghana alone, African grey parrot populations are estimated to have declined by 90-99 percent and in many other parts of their range,” notes a statement from Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), “forests that were once full of their 'music' are now eerily quiet.”

In an effort to help save the species, WCS Field Program and Bronx Zoo are working on rescuing, treating, and releasing the smart, silvery beauties back into wild. They have rescued thousands thus far – to date, some 900 have been returned to the trees, but many of the rescued birds have not survived the ordeal. The work is being done at a rehabilitation facility in Congo constructed by WCS, with a second facility slated to open soon. Medical and bird experts from WCS’s Bronx Zoo have been to the facility to help with the parrots’ care.

“It was heartbreaking to see so many injured parrots struggling to stay alive,” says David Oehler, Curator for Ornithology with the Bronx Zoo. “The WCS Congo veterinary staff is making heroic efforts to save as many parrots as possible, and we were honored to provide our expertise and assistance.”

Importantly, WCS is working with the Congolese government to boost patrols around trafficking routes and launch more investigations into trafficking networks – because releasing parrots back into the wild obviously doesn’t help if the poor things are just going to end up in another glue trap.

WCS has released a video of the rescued birds and the facility; it inspires thoughts of both “why are people so awful” and “thank heavens there are such good people.” For the sake of these beautiful birds that deserve to be free in the forests, let’s hope that the good people trample the aims of the awful ones. For our part, anyone considering a parrot for a pet … well, heed the words of Emma Stokes, WCS Regional Director for Central Africa:

“Traffickers are vacuuming up African gray parrots from Africa’s forests,” says Stokes. “This heartbreaking footage [below] should serve as a wake-up call to any prospective buyers of parrots to avoid them unless they come from a highly reputable dealer and you are absolutely certain they were bred in captivity and not taken from the wild.”

For more on the WCS program to help save the parrots and how you can help, visit Parrots in Peril.

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