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  PlanetArk 5 Jul 06
African Grey Parrots "Under Threat From Pet Trade"

LONDON - Britain's favourite talking parrot, the African grey, is being put at risk by the wild bird trade, wildlife campaigners said on Thursday.

The African grey, one of the most popular avian pets in the world, is declining in most of the 23 countries in which it is found and may soon become a threatened species, the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB) said.

A meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) opens on Friday at which trade in the African grey, prized both for its mimicry and plumage, will be reviewed.

The RSPB said evidence of declining numbers of the species shows existing trade controls are too weak. Europe is responsible for 93 percent of the trade in CITES-listed birds and the charity wants Britain and other EU countries to ban bird imports unless there is compelling proof that numbers in the wild are being sustained.

"The plight of the African grey reflects the state of the bird trade as a whole," said Duncan McNiven, senior investigations officer at the RSPB. "As the world's major importer of wild birds, the EU should now be banning imports of all wild birds," he added in a statement.

The EU suspended the trade last year after imported wild birds died of the lethal H5N1 strain of bird flu in quarantine in Essex. Seizures of smuggled birds have not increased since and the RSPB estimates that the ban has saved more than one million wild birds from life in cages.

The African grey is one of at least 3,000 bird species kept as pets. The RSPB said almost 360,000 African greys were legally traded between 1994 and 2003.

The CITES meeting comes as market research commissioned by the RSPB reveals that more than 90 percent of people in Britain and Germany disapprove of the wild bird trade.

(Reporting by Astrid Zweynert; Editing by Steve Addison)

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