Member Login



Auto-login for future visits

Join or Renew Today!

Membership Benefits:

Close Button


2017 – An important year for African Greys

Rowan Martin, PhD | Dec 23, 2017


At this time of year, it’s always worth taking stock of the year that was, what’s been achieved and where we need to be focusing our efforts for the next. It’s been an incredibly busy year for WPT’s Africa programme with a large focus on protecting Grey and Timneh parrots. Here’s a brief summary of what we’ve been up to and the significant events that have kept us going.


Protecting threatened Timneh parrots in West Africa

WPT continued to work with partners in Guinea-Bissau to protect an important population of Timneh parrots, which have been recently recognised as a separate species and categorised as globally Endangered. This work has led to the first published study of wild Timneh parrots, published in November 2017 in the ornithological journal Ostrich - it's incredible that a species so familiar in captivity has received so little research attention in the wild until now. WPT staff played a key role in designing research, collecting data in the field and preparing reports, and continue to work with researchers from the University of Lisbon, ISPA and the Institute of Biodiversity and Protected Areas of Guinea Bissau on further studies and vitally important conservation initiatives. Check out some of the findings of the research in the infographic below (thanks to Daniel Lopes for preparing this - a larger version is available by clicking on the image below). Former parrot trappers-turned-conservationists were employed to help with the research and even co-authored the study.

Caption: The first published study on wild Timneh parrots was a major collaborative effort between WPT, ISPA, IBAP and several other partners and funders. 


Supporting better protection through global agreements

The year started on a hugely positive note with Grey and Timneh parrots officially placed on Appendix I of CITES (the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), on the 2nd January. In doing so the legal international trade in wild Grey parrots came to an end. This was a huge landmark for parrot conservation. More than 1.2 million Grey parrots have been reported in legal trade since the early 1980s with many more dying before export or trafficked illegally.

Decisions at that time, by the Democratic Republic of Congo, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to take reservations to the listing caused some initial concerns over how effective it would be for protecting key populations in the Congo Basin - reservations to an Appendix I listing can be taken by countries who wish to continue trading among themselves. Worryingly this could allow for some exports from the DRC which acts as a conduit for illegal trade from other countries, although an existing suspension on exports remained in place initially (CITES rules can be complicated). However following concerted international pressure, led by several Grey parrot range states, the EU and others, the three countries with reservations pledged in November to stop all trade in wild Grey parrots with some indicating they would be retracting their reservations. WPT staff worked tirelessly to support this process, conducting research into the trade, supporting and liaising with partners in the Democratic Republic of Congo, preparing reports and peer-reviewed publications (see below) and travelling to CITES meetings to ensure that the key information got in front of the right people.  These efforts have paid off and the ‘loop-holes’ that remained are now closed, providing much welcomed clarity for enforcement agencies. The message is now clear, ‘there is no legal international trade in wild Grey parrots for commercial purposes’.

Caption: WPT prepared peer-reviewed publications and reports to help understand the effectiveness of the Appendix I listing 


Ending trafficking through monitoring illegal trade and supporting seized parrots

The WPT investigations team have been continuing to track trade in Grey and Timneh parrots to closely monitor the situation and supply enforcement agencies with information so they can take swift and decisive action. While there has been a worrying amount of illegal trafficking taking place there are some signs of recent improvements, with large reductions in some importing countries. A recent seizure made in DRC at a key point of export, is extremely encouraging.

WPT also work to end illegal trafficking through assisting the care of parrot seized from trade. By helping out with seized parrots, enforcement agencies can get on with their important work of dismantling trade networks, and we can be sure the parrots get the care they need. In 2017 we worked with rescue centres in Senegal, Liberia, DRC, Sierra Leone and Tanzania, providing technical support and emergency funds where necessary to build housing, provide food and other vital care. Next year we are excited to be part of a new project in Angola aimed at building capacity and providing training for caring for rescued wildlife including Grey parrots.

Caption: Timneh parrots rescued from illegal trade in Liberia and Senegal


Initiating new field projects

In Nigeria WPT supported a preliminary field study to assess the status and threats of Grey parrots. Ifeanyi Ezenwa, a PhD student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, visited over 20 sites some of which had been surveyed 15 years ago providing and opportunity to assess how things have changed. The preliminary results were mixed, while some new roosting sites were identified, populations had evidently collapsed in other areas and a familiar story was told - trapping for the pet trade together with forest loss are proving to be a devastating combination. A new field project to understand the status and threats to Timneh parrots has also been initiated in Sierra Leone together with local ornithologists, with data being collected as this is being written. This work will continue in 2018 and is critical for guiding future actions to protect Grey and Timneh parrots.

Caption: New field research on Timneh and Grey parrots was initiated in 2017.


And so…

We at WPT owe a huge debt of gratitude to all the staff, volunteers, partners and friends who have worked tirelessly to help Grey and Timneh parrots in 2017. And of course none of this would have been possible without the generous support of donors around the world. Great progress has been made this year, but there remains much to do and you can be assured we’ll be doing everything we can to make 2018 an even more significant year.