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  BBC 27 Oct 06
Wild bird trade ban 'should stay'

A temporary ban on importing wild birds into the UK to prevent the spread of bird flu should remain in place, conservationists have said.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) claims the ban has saved hundreds of thousands of exotic birds from death or a life in captivity. It was imposed when imported birds died from the H5N1 strain of bird flu while in quarantine in Essex in October 2005.

The RSPB says it now fears the ban could be lifted.

"The import ban has thrown thousands and perhaps millions of birds a lifeline and it would be a tragedy if the ban were to be lifted when it is reviewed in December," said Sacha Cleminson, senior European advocacy officer at the RSPB. "We already know that this could happen because the EU is under pressure from some of the countries that export exotic birds.

"If these states can prove that seizing wild birds does not reduce their numbers, there might be grounds for resuming a limited trade. But there is little evidence to prove this and if we are to stop birds from going extinct, the ban should be made permanent until there is."

Bird taking

The RSPB says the pet trade is threatening 60% of the world's 350 parrot species, and one in 10 of the 1,200 bird species now at risk of extinction.

The EU is responsible for 87% of the trade in birds listed by CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

This amounts to about one million birds annually. The trade in non-CITES birds is thought to be even greater.

The RSPB says wild bird populations are falling largely because of habitat loss and because of poor controls on numbers taken from nests in Africa, South America and Asia.

Julian Hughes, head of species policy at the RSPB said: "Too many birds are taken too often because what curbs there are, are ignored.

All countries are responsible for the conservation of their wildlife and those states with the most sought after birds have the greatest responsibility of all, Mr Hughes added.

"Up to 60% of birds caught for the pet trade die before they reach their destination. This is an horrific toll, particularly when almost every bird wanted as a pet could be bred in captivity in the UK."

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