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Grey Parrot

 (Psittacus erithacus)
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© World Parrot Trust

Project Status: Active | 2001 - Current

Collaborators

Lukuru Foundation, Knoxville Zoo, Kenya Wildlife Service, Pandrillus Foundation, Last Great Ape Organization, Limbe Wildlife Centre, Lwiro Primate Rehabilitation Centre, Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, Disney Wildlife Rapid Response, Born Free Foundation, WWF Cameroon, Natural Encounters, Inc., Dees Family Foundation, Phoenix Landing Foundation, Columbus Zoo, Humane Society of the US (HSUS), Isdell Family Foundation, RSPCA, Pro Wildlife, Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA), Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, Wildlife Conservation Society-Congo, Uganda Wildlife Authority, Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and Waters, MAYA,

At severe risk from legal and illegal trade

Formerly widespread over much of tropical Africa, Grey Parrots (Psittacus erithacus) are disappearing from many range countries

Progress and outcomes: Beginning in 2001, WPT has supported ongoing studies on Grey Parrot behaviour and the effects of trade. To date, the Trust has assisted with the confiscation and rescue of nearly 5100 Grey Parrots (see Species Info tab). 

At the beginning of 2012 WPT launched a petition to call on CITES to suspend the export of Grey Parrots from Congo and Cameroon.  The petition eventually drew 42,000 signatures.

Focus of future work:

  • Reduce the trade in wild caught African parrots
  • Rehabilitate and release confiscated birds
  • Encourage sustainable alternatives to parrot trapping
  • Re-establish wild populations in suitable areas of their former range
  • Raise awareness for the plight of wild Grey Parrots

WPT will continue to work with partners to aid Grey Parrots in the following countries: Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Congo-Brazzaville, Nigeria and South Africa.

With your help we can complete these important tasks to better understand the species, and continue to deliver effective solutions to further their conservation.

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Email: uk@parrots.org
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Fax: +44 (0) 1736 751028

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Email: usa@parrots.org
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IUCN/CITES Status: Vulnerable / Appendix II

World population: As low as 560,000

Where found: The Grey Parrot is found in S Nigeria, S Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, DRC, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, SE Ivory Coast, N Angola, S Democratic Republic of Congo, NW Tanzania, W Kenya, W Uganda, Principe and Bioko Islands.

History: Formerly widespread over much of Africa, Grey and Timneh parrots are now threatened throughout much of their natural ranges: extensive deforestation particularly in W Africa and heavy trapping for the wild bird trade have caused population declines.  Both species (recently split from Psittacus erithacus to P. erithacus and P. timneh) have been uplisted on the IUCN Red List to Vulnerable in the wild on the basis of rapid population declines over three generations (47 years) resulting from these two threats.  Recent estimates range from as low as 560,000 to a high of 12.7 million (Pilgrim et al. in prep).  Population declines have been noted in Burundi, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Togo, Uganda and parts of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In all of these decreases, trapping for the wild bird trade is implicated as the main cause, with habitat loss also having a significant impact. Over 657,000 wild-caught individuals of mostly P. erithacus entered international trade from 1982-2001 (UNEP-WCMC 2003). Taking into account estimates of 40-60% for pre-export mortality, the number of birds taken from the wild during this period may have numbered over 1 million (A. Michels in litt. 2012).

Threats:

  • Trade in wild-caught birds
  • Loss of habitat and habitat fragmentation

Ecology: Grey Parrots are found in primary and secondary rainforest, forest edges and clearings, gallery forest and mangroves; also wooded savanna, cultivated land and some gardens, up to an altitude of 2200m (7216 ft). They eat a variety of seeds, nuts, fruits and berries and some cultivated maize, usually feeding at tops of trees.  They are gregarious, forming large communal flocks of over 1000 individuals, roosting in palms over water or on islands in rivers.

Country by country, WPT has provided help to:

Cameroon:
Since 2007, WPT has assisted with 5 seizures of Grey Parrots totaling more than 3000 birds. Aid provided included advising on the care, housing, rehab and reintroduction of the birds, sending funds for new enclosures, and sending in a veterinary team to assess the overall health of the birds.

Congo-Brazzaville:
In November 2011, about 160 Greys were confiscated by police in the Republic of Congo and taken to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) field camp in Kabo, located in a forested area in the northern part of the country, where an existing cage was adapted for the parrots. The World Parrot Trust was contacted shortly after, and provided advice on treatments, housing and diet. Dr. Ken Cameron, a wildlife veterinarian with WCS-Congo, was able to assess the parrots quickly, separating the healthy ones from those that needed treatment. Despite their ordeal, most of the Greys appeared to be in good health.

In early 2012, WCS-Congo decided to reassess the condition of the parrots to see how many were ready to be released. They asked WPT to send an avian specialist to Congo to assist them. On March 15th, Dr. Davide De Guz, of the World Parrot Trust Field Veterinary Team, flew to Brazzaville, Congo. On their arrival in Kabo they found that most of the glue covering the parrot’s feathers had been washed away by the rains, which was good news as it meant that those parrots were again able to fly and could be released. It also meant that there was more time to focus on the parrots that were still not healthy, to perform tests, and to work on repairing the remaining injured feathers by splinting healthy ones into a portion of an existing shaft, called 'imping'. The benefit of imping is that the bird’s flight ability is immediately restored.

Dr. Davide and Dr. Ken were able to release all but about 60 of the parrots in late March. This was the first time confiscated Grey parrots were rehabilitated and released in Congo-Brazzaville.

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC):
In 2010 WPT assisted with the confiscation of 500 grey parrots, providing guidance on care and rehabilitation for release into the wild.  Unfortunately corrupt government officials seized the birds before they could be released and returned them to bird traders.  WPT responded by alerting all appropriate agencies to try to secure them.

Kenya:
WPT funded the training of a customs veterinarian for Nairobi Airport to identify instances where birds are being smuggled through security. Within 2 months of finishing his training 25 parrots were seized.  WPT also supported a meeting of personnel from key agencies to discuss the situation with the trade in Greys. Agencies represented included: National Museums of Kenya, Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Society for the Protection and Care of Animals, Kenya Airports Authority, Nature Kenya and Kakamega Environmental Education Programme.

Nigeria:
In Calabar, Nigeria July 2013 officals confiscated 96 Grey parrots that had been smuggled from Cameroon on their way to being sold outside of Africa. They were transferred to the Pandrillus Foundation compound in Calabar. WPT sent funds to help with the housing and rehabilitation of the birds.  The parrots have been doing well since their rescue.  Once the birds have been checked by a veterinarian and they are deemed healthy the center will attempt a 'soft release', wherein the birds are slowly introduced to the area that will become their new home.

South Africa:
700 illegally caught Greys died in airline transit from DRC to South Africa. Follow up and media glare focused by Dr. Steve Boyes within the country led to a temporary ban on all incoming imports of Greys (affecting probably 5000 birds annually).

In a separate incident, 150 Greys were confiscated at a border crossing from the DRC.  The birds were taken to a quarantine facility in Johannesburg.  (Update Sept. 2011: Unfortunately WPT learned that the public prosecutor decided to hand the birds over to a bird trader from Mozambique, even though there was no proof that the man had ownership of the birds.)

Uganda:
WPT assisted with two seizures of 250 Grey parrots. Support provided included most of what has been listed above, in addition to a community education program to raise awareness of conservation issues.  In 2013 renowned primatologist and conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall assisted with the release into the wild of seventeen Grey parrots confiscated in Bulgaria three years prior, sent to Sofia Zoo and rehabilitated at Uganda's Ngamba Island Sanctuary in preparation for release.

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