Brent goose formations in the sky, Hampshire

Trade ban will save two million wild birds

The trade in wild birds will be permanently banned throughout the EU because of fears for human and animal health.

Trade ban will save two million wild birds

The ban, from 1 July 2007, means that up to two million wild birds annually will be saved from the pet trade which has caused the decline of species such as the African grey parrot, the yellow-naped amazon parrot and the white-fronted parrot.

The move has been welcomed by the RSPB, which has campaigned for a permanent ban for 20 years.

Chief Executive Graham Wynne said, 'This decision takes wild bird conservation a hugely significant step forward. Millions of birds will now be saved including the many that die before they even reach their destination.

The trade has been a blight on the EU’s conservation and welfare record for far too long and this ban comes none too soon. Now, every European government must ensure the ban is properly policed, that quarantine rules are fully enforced and that that there is no opportunity for unscrupulous traders to bend any part of the new law.'  

The wild bird trade was temporarily banned in the EU in October 2005 after birds at an Essex quarantine centre were found to have bird flu. It was made permanent by the EU’s chief veterinary officers at a meeting in Brussels this afternoon.

The import of small numbers of wild birds into the EU by zoos and some pet owners will still be allowed. But traded birds listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) – the world’s most threatened birds - should drop from about 800,000 each year to a few hundred.

Perhaps one million birds not listed by CITES were also traded annually. The import of those birds will be all but stopped as well. Additionally, up to 60 per cent of wild caught birds die before reaching Europe. They will also be saved. 

The trade in CITES-listed wild birds was banned in the US in 1992 leaving the EU responsible for 87 per cent of the trade. 

Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote to the RSPB in December 2006 promising to press the rest of the EU to make the temporary ban on the trade permanent. In the letter, he said 'the RSPB’s campaign has graphically demonstrated that the catching and transportation of wild birds…causes unacceptable levels of suffering to the birds and can have a damaging impact on their wild populations.' 

Sacha Cleminson, Senior European Advocacy Officer at the RSPB said, 'This ban is wonderful news for wild birds. We will be watching closely all of the EU’s Member States to check that the ban is being properly enforced. An additional ban on conservation grounds would give wild birds even greater protection. We do not allow our blue tits and robins to be exported and we should do our utmost to discourage the export of other countries’ birds as well.'

Whooper swan, Cygnus cygnus, in flight at dusk, Martin Mere, Lancashire