Singapore is a major transit hub for trade in threatened birds, especially African grey parrots.
By Laurel Neme
PUBLISHED APRIL 19, 2016
Singapore plays a key role as a major international transshipment hub for the global aviculture industry, according to a new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the wildlife trade monitoring organization TRAFFIC. That’s especially true for trade in African grey parrots.
African greys are highly sought-after as pets because they’re so smart and talkative. (Alex, who lived with scientist Irene Pepperberg for 30 years, had a vocabulary of more than a hundred words and a mind-blowing range of cognitive skills beyond.) They’re native to Equatorial Africa, but populations are declining throughout their range. Although millions of African greys have been bred in captivity, demand for wild-caught birds remains high, and they’re especially vulnerable because they roost in large groups and tend to concentrate around water sources or mineral licks.
They’re now so popular that some range countries have proposed that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the body that regulates the global wildlife trade, categorize them as requiring maximum protection.
The new study, published in the journal Oryx, sheds light on the bird trade system. It reveals that Singapore has been a major conduit for birds from Africa and Europe to East Asia and the Middle East and that between 2005 and 2014 the city-state imported 212 bird species listed by CITES as needing protections, with African grey parrots the most intensively traded.