FoA Secures ESA Protections for Three Rare Parrot Species

Today marked a milestone in putting an end to the global bird trade as all members of three parrot species gained protection under the Endangered Species Act after a petition was filed by Friends of Animals and WildEarth Guardians. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Philippine cockatoo and the yellow-crested cockatoo (including all four subspecies) as “endangered” and the white cockatoo as “threatened” due to a variety of threats, including the illegal collection of these attractive birds from the wild for the pet trade.

“We are pleased that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally acted to protect these increasingly rare birds,” said Michael Harris, director of Friends of Animals’ Wildlife Law Program. “It is fitting that those who have profited from caging these beautiful birds will now face some 'cage time' themselves.”

Friends of Animals and WildEarth Guardians, with the University of Denver Environmental Law Clinic, reached a settlement with the Service in July 2010, in which the Service agreed to provide overdue 12-month listing decisions for 12 parrot species petitioned by Friends of Animals. The Service made a 12-month finding in August of 2011; this rule is the final step in the listing process.

“It’s wonderful to see needed protections put in place that will keep these beautiful birds where they belong—in the wild,” said Taylor Jones, endangered species advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “Demand for these intelligent birds, including U.S. demand, drives poaching in their home ranges.”

The Philippine cockatoo, white with a striking red undertail, once inhabited 52 islands in the Philippines. Now, its range is likely reduced to just eight islands. In addition to poaching for the pet trade, this species faces threats from logging, mining and conversion of forests to agriculture, all of which have destroyed much of the lowland forest and native mangroves that the species calls home.

The four subspecies of yellow-crested cockatoo are native to Indonesia and Timor-Leste (an independent state adjacent to West Timor). They all have similar brilliant yellow, forward-curving head crests and they all face significant threats from poaching for the pet trade and both legal and illegal logging. The yellow-crested cockatoo has declined substantially across its range and may be facing extinction on several islands including Sulawesi, Sumbawa and Flores.

White cockatoos, with their signature large, backward-curving head crests, were inhabitants of six islands in North Maluku, Indonesia (also known as the Moluccas or the Spice Islands). They now inhabit only two of these islands. Poaching for the pet trade is the primary threat to this species, and removal of individuals from the wild is particularly harmful to the white cockatoo, a monogamous, long-lived bird that may not begin breeding until six years of age. 

Unfortunately, as the white cockatoo is listed as “threatened,” the Service included a Special Rule under the ESA that allows continued import, export or interstate commerce of birds held in captivity prior to the listing date and of captive-bred birds. For many species utilized for commercial purposes, legal trade creates ldquo;coverrdquo; for illegal trade, and makes enforcement more difficult./pdivnbsp;/div