To clip the wings of illegal bird trade, custodians of wildlife in the government are being helped to identify native parrot species

A parrot in captivity is one of the more visible symbols of illegal trade in India, where all native wildlife is fully protected. To help enforcement officers identify native parrot species, and thereby clip the wings of the illegal bird trade, TRAFFIC India with support from WWF-India has produced an identification poster entitled “Parrots of India in Illegal Trade”.

Identification of parrots and other species in trade is a major challenge, but the new poster will help enforcement officers identify the 12 native Indian parrot species. The posters will be distributed to Police, Customs, Forest Departments, Railway Protection Forces, educational institutions including schools and colleges.

Despite the blanket ban since 1990-91 on trade in all India bird species, hundreds of parrots are collected and traded annually in India. They are taken from the wild and smuggled to various parts of the country and beyond. The bulk of the trade is in three to four week old chicks.

Parrots are caught using nets and bird-lime. Adult parrots are traded throughout the year, with chicks arriving in trade between December and June. For every bird that reaches the market place, several are believed to die en route.

Of the 12 native species, eight are regularly found being illegally trade. They include Alexandrine, Rose-ringed, Plum-headed, Red-breasted, Malabar, Himalayan Parakeets and Vernal Hanging-parrot.

For centuries, parrots have been kept as pets mainly because they are straightforward to keep and easy to replace because of the large numbers in trade. This has in turn created demand that has led to an organised illegal trade in parrots.

Abrar Ahmed, ornithologist and a bird trade consultant to TRAFFIC India said: “The Alexandrine Parakeet is one of the most sought after species in the Indian live bird trade and is traded in large volumes throughout the year. The chicks are collected from forested areas and transported to bird markets in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Patna, Lucknow and Kolkata. Many of the specimens are smuggled by Indian dealers via Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh to bird markets in various other parts of the world.”

He added, “Alarmingly, three species of Indian parrots — Nicobar, Long-tailed and Derby's Parakeets — are considered by IUCN as near threatened with extinction, with illegal trade posing a significant threat.”

M.K.S. Pasha, co-ordinator of TRAFFIC India said: “Few know that our favourite and well-known ‘mithu' is a protected species in India. Their chicks are captured remorselessly from the wild, and many do not make it to the final destination.”

While parrot trade is substantial and well organised, it can be counteracted through concerted enforcement actions at the grass roots level and mass awareness campaigns. TRAFFIC India's new poster is a step in this direction. Apart from government personnel who are involved in wildlife protection, Mr Pasha hopes that the campaign will also inspire children and young people as they are the ones who will influence future change and can play a significant role in curtailing demand for native wildlife.

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