Sunday, December 20, 2009

Endangered Parrots to Possibly be Destroyed in Victoria

OK - I usually stay well away from the political side of birdkeeping here in Australia but this one is just too big an issue to ignore. Please be aware that any views or opinions expressed on this post are mine and should not be considered the views or opinions held by any other person.

Here's the lowdown...
A recent court ruling on the seizure of a substantial collection of exotic parrots in Victoria has resulted in the option of some, if not all, of the birds in question being destroyed. These are not eggs, nor to my knowledge young birds recently smuggled into Australia, but older birds under the suspicion of having been originally smuggled, or the progeny of illegally held birds, or birds whose origin cannot be verified.

At present, there is an appeals timeframe that must pass before action is taken as per the court ruling. There are a range of options that may be taken and, as per the Government's current guidelines for managing such situations the following information has been released in regards to this matter...

Why do forfeited birds have to be euthanased?
· Our department has a policy in place relating to the handling of live animals that have been seized. It outlines three alternatives, firstly to house the animals within approved Australian institutions, secondly to export them to appropriate facilities outside of Australia and thirdly the euthanasia of the specimen.
· Rehousing is done in line with this handling policy which has strict requirements for the types of facilities that can take on the birds.
· There are limited quarantine facilities and these have limited capacity to hold forfeited specimens which on occasions makes euthanasing them only viable option.
· The re-exporting of specimens overseas has limited conservation values and most illegally obtained specimens have unknown genetic and disease background and are therefore unlikely to be accepted into conservation breeding programs.
· It’s not a pleasant decision to have to make but it’s an unfortunate consequence of the criminal trade.

Why can't you send them back to the country they came from?
· If a specimens are seized at the border by Australia Customs and Border Protection agency and they’re CITES Appendix 1 listed, in some circumstances these have been successfully exported back to the country of origin.
· If a specimen has been come into Australia illegal, its origin often can not be traced, and other countries are unwilling to take these species.

Why can't other birdkeepers or aviaries take the birds?
· By allowing individuals or facilities that don’t meet departmental requirements to take on the illegal birds, there’s a risk that we’re supporting wildlife trade crime – basically, we’re allowing laundering to take place.
· There are also difficulties in ensuring quarantine and disease concerns are addressed. One of the reasons the trade of these birds is illegal is the risk of disease spreading to our native wildlife.
· Some approved facilities are not always willing to take illegal birds because of the disease risk they pose to the existing collection.
· Approved facilities are those that meet the requirements of the department’s handling policy.
· If they go into a department approved facility, they undergo a thorough quarantine screening process.

What are the diseases and what risk are they to native wildlife?
· Some of the diseases birds can carry are avian influenza, Pacheco’s disease, Amazon tracheitis, poxvirus, internal papillomatous disease and psittacine proventricular dilation syndrome.

Is there really a disease risk?
Yes, In light of incomplete knowledge on certain diseases of psittacine birds, and with a lack of definitive methods for testing imported birds for the presence of these diseases, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) suspended the importation of live psittacine birds in 1995. The decision was generally supported by veterinary respondents and the Bureau of Rural Sciences.
Anastasia Stomo | Public Affairs Officer

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts | GPO Box 787 CANBERRA, ACT 2601
p) 02 6275 9243 | f) 02 6274 1094 e)

So - what's my viewpoint here???
Firstly, I am hopeful that a proper and thorough assessment, evaluation, and testing procedure is carried out by avian veterinarians with extensive experience in parrot health so that the determination of disease risk potential of these birds is conducted using the testing technologies we have available today, not when the above guidelines were formulated. I also do not want to see any of the above birds unfairly euthanized if they are assessed with minor, treatable illness.

Secondly, I want to be confident that a thorough effort is made by the DEWHA to provide all registered Zoo and Aquarium Association institutions throughout Australia with the opportunity to apply for the rehousing of healthy birds and that there is transparency in this process.

There are many, many sides of the debate that this issue will raise - above is essentially the policy that the authorities will be guided by. At this stage however, just consider the following list of birds facing euthanasia. The number in brackets represents the number of each species that are under seizure and will be evaluated - 173 in total.
  • Blue headed macaw (5)
  • Blue headed pionus (1)
  • Bronze wing pionus (3)
  • Buffons macaw (5)
  • Crimson bellied conure (16)
  • Cuban amazon (18)
  • Illegers macaw (8)
  • Hawk headed parrot (5)
  • Hyacinth macaw (6)
  • Moluccan cockatoo (8)
  • Patagonian parrot (6)
  • Red browed amazon (3)
  • Red fronted macaw (16)
  • Rose crown conure (33)
  • Severe macaw (4)
  • Tucumans amazon (6)
  • Umbrella cockatoo (8)
  • White fronted amazon (17)
  • Yellow naped amazon (5)

Perhaps you can voice your opinion directly to the DEWHA Public Affairs Officer above to ensure that they are aware that the Australian birdkeeping community does not want to see these birds destroyed if they are assessed as clear of exotic disease and pose no risk to bird collections in Australia.