Over a million have been captured and removed from the wild to accommodate booming demand over the last century. Millions have now been bred in captivity and sold into international markets. Grey parrots are big business. African Grey and Timneh Grey Parrots were once widespread throughout the tropical forests of central and West Africa. Today, they are restricted to protected forests with reported declines over the last 10 to 15 years. We have already experienced local extinctions in parts of Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and throughout the range of the Timneh Grey Parrot in West Africa. The United States banned all trade in wild-caught birds in 1992 and the European Union followed in 2006. Demand for wild-caught birds remains high and may in coming years see a boom in demand from growing, affluent markets in the Far East. High-quality breeding facilities are the norm in the United States, Europe and Australia, but emerging markets and poorly regulated hubs like Bahrain and South Africa are cutting corners and depending heavily on wild-caught birds.
African Grey Parrots and Timneh Grey Parrots are threatened by habitat destruction and capture for the wild-caught bird trade. The effort to keep Grey Parrots safe in the wild is moving into the forests, salt-licks and clearings of the Congo and West African forests, as we mobilize a global effort to save the species from further local extinctions. Saving one of Africa’s most important global ambassador from persecution and capture back home needs to be a global effort. Emerging markets and the increased use of container ships to move large numbers of live birds and animals is spurring recent increases in trade levels. In recent years we have seen several African countries exceed their CITES import/export quotas for wild-caught African parrots. Traders are pushing the limits and moving large numbers of birds at a time, resulting in incidents like the tragic death of hundreds of wild Grey Parrots on a commercial flight from Johannesburg to Durban in South Africa. We need to make sure that customs officials have access to the correct information and, for example, know the difference between an African Grey Parrot, Timneh Grey Parrot, and Cape Parrot. We have a long way to go before we get anywhere near being able to adequately police the wildlife trade in Africa.