From the Guardian, a comprehensively researched exposé of a shady “conservation” organisation and its questionable dealings in endangered parrots, including birds from Dominica, Saint Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots (ACTP) is home to one of the largest private collections of threatened birds in the world, but serious questions have been raised about the legitimacy of its operations:
In a little over a decade, ACTP has reached agreements with the governments of Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Dominica, Brazil and Australia to import parrots. It has done so with the approval of Germany’s Bundesamt für Naturschutz – the federal agency for nature conservation (BfN).
The legal import and export of rare and endangered birds is governed by the 1975 convention on international trade in endangered species (Cites). But ACTP operates in a grey area where national authorities take responsibility for limited areas of activity in their own country. The Guardian’s investigation has found instances where neither the exporting nor the importing country has effectively supervised both ends of a transfer.
The article describes how ACTPs has operated in Saint Lucia:
Donald Anthony, a former wildlife officer in Saint Lucia’s forestry department, says he warned the government about ACTP in 2009.
“When ACTP first came to Saint Lucia, they came to our office and they were bragging about how they want to get into business with us because they had all the latest facilities and technologies in parrot breeding,” he says.
“They said they are not conservationists, they are businessmen. From the time the guy said that, I said that is not the kind of people we should be dealing with.”
In 2009 ACTP donated four-wheel drives to Saint Lucia’s forestry department. The following year it reached an agreement with the government to start importing Saint Lucia amazons from both Saint Lucia and the UK, where birds had been held in long-standing conservation programs. ACTP does not publish inventories, so it is unclear how many of the species it still holds.
Saint Lucia’s forestry department did not respond to a request for comment.
And in Dominica after Hurricane Maria:
On 17 March 2018, a private charter plane left the Caribbean island of Dominica bound for Germany, via Saint Lucia.
On board were representatives of ACTP, with two imperial and 10 red-necked parrots that had been housed at a conservation facility after surviving Hurricane Maria, which had ripped through the country six months earlier.
The 12 birds were moved to ACTP’s facilities in Brandenburg. After the transfer, Dominica’s forestry, wildlife and parks division received three four-wheel-drive vehicles from ACTP that were intended to support fieldwork.
Before the hurricane, an estimated 350 to 450 imperial parrots, also known as sisserou, remained in the wild.
How Dominica’s endemic birds came to be on the plane is the subject of a controversy that has embroiled the governments of Dominica and Germany, the Cites secretariat in Geneva, and the UN environment program.
“All of the birds ACTP took from Dominica were hatched in the wild, most of which were being rehabilitated for release back to the forest,” says Paul Reillo, who holds a PhD in zoology from the University of Maryland and is the president of the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation, a Florida-based not-for-profit.
“Now these once-wild birds, all survivors of Hurricane Maria, will spend the rest of their days in cages.”
Reillo has been working on conservation projects in Dominica for more than two decades. His foundation has the longest running collaborative program with Dominica’s forestry, wildlife and parks division. It does its work in country, with the exception of one captive-bred imperial parrot it has in Florida.
“All of those years of in situ conservation investment and productivity came to a crashing halt when this organisation, acting with a single acting permanent secretary, secretly exported 12 birds off the island without forestry’s knowledge or participation,” Reillo says.
I strongly recommend reading the full article ‘A legitimate zoo?’ How an obscure German group cornered global trade in endangered parrots at the Guardian website.
[Image: via earth.com]