Threatened parrots saved from wildlife traffickers

ZSL helps illegal smuggling of Endangered African grey parrots to be intercepted in Cameroon.

Eight endangered African grey parrots have been rescued from the illegal wildlife trade. Shocking footage released by international conservation charity ZSL shows the appalling conditions the birds were being trafficked in, and their distress calls can be clearly heard.

Acting on advice from ZSL’s experts, Cameroon’s Ministère des Forêts et de la Faune (MINFOF) were able to intercept the shipment in the town of Djoum. Authorities believe the parrots were destined for sale in the capital Yaoundé. 

Due to the illegal wildlife trade, numbers of African grey parrots have declined throughout their range. Although data on parrots in Cameroon is poor, populations in nearby Ghana are thought to have fallen by as much as 99% since 1992. 

“Despite having the highest legal protection in Cameroon, grey parrots are facing extinction due to poaching. The way these birds are taken from the wild is very cruel; poachers use parrots they have previously captured as lures, tethering the birds beside branches covered in glue. Wild parrots, who are naturally sociable, fly down to investigate the newcomers. Once stuck they can’t escape and are then packed into crates, often without food or water. Many do not survive.” says Samuel Nebaneh, ZSL’s Cameroon Law Enforcement Coordinator.  

The individual found in possession of these eight parrots awaits trial and, if convicted, could face a significant fine and up to three years in prison.  

ZSL’s Samuel Nebaneh adds: “The parrots are sometimes sold to supply the pet market in Asia or locally for their feathers, heads and feet. Their red tail feathers are used in religious ceremonies, and their heads in local rituals because people incorrectly believe that, since parrots are so good at mimicking human voices, they can cure speech impediments.” 

The parrots themselves have been moved by MINFOF to the Limbe Wildlife Centre where they will remain until they have recovered from their ordeal. They will then be released back to the forests from which they were taken.  

ZSL has worked in Cameroon for 10 years helping communities to become resilient to exploitation by criminal gangs of wildlife traffickers. More recently, alongside the World Parrot Trust, bird experts from ZSL London and Whipsnade Zoos have begun a project to train MINFOF’s eco-guards to best care for the parrots they seize, allowing more to be returned to the wild. 

A lack of funding - as a result of the current pandemic - has put ZSL’s world-leading expertise in science and conservation in serious jeopardy. ZSL needs urgent support to keep its scientists investigating wildlife diseases such as Covid-19, and its conservationists working in the field to protect the wildlife and ecosystems on which we rely.

Donate now