AFA in action: News Views AFA, CITES, Aviculture & You


Fifteen million people have pet birds, at least that's an estimate often stated by folks who assert they know. Right or wrong, there is no question that thousands of pet birds are kept by bird lovers throughout the United States and the world. New industries have sprouted, strictly as a result of the many aviary and pet birds with owners who care. Among these industries is the extremely important work of avian veterinarians. Twenty years ago, the term "avian vet" was seldom, if ever, heard. Today, avian vets are trained, knowledgeable people who specialize in maintaining the health of the pet bird and aviary populations.

Birds used to be fed a seed diet not based on science or knowledge but on the fact that sunflower seeds were (generally) available. Today, avian diets are available in every pet store. Some created in USA are in use world wide. Some of the avian diets are. based on years of special study. Seed companies now have entire sections of their high volume businesses based on how and what birds should be fed.

These days, though, not everyone is happy about people having birds (as they oft say ) in cages. This brings me to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and policies created by the delegates over the many years of its existence.

The CITES Animals Committee will consider recommendation(s) which, if adopted, will alter existing policies covering the keeping, breeding and conservation of endangered avian species. The term "commercial purposes" may also be redefined.

One proposal presently being circulated reads: "This conference urges ... that all contracting Parties encourage the breeding of animals [popular in the pet trade], with the objective of eventually limiting the keeping of pets to those species which can be bred in captivity."

The proposals now before the Animals Committee deal with every species. Aviculturists, eternally optimistic, believe any avian species can be bred in captivity. The record supports such optimism.

However, if other CITES or government policies make it literally impossible to work with endangered or threatened avian species how does anyone learn the characteristics of those particular species? How does one then prove it is possible to breed those particular avian species under aviary conditions?

Who Decides?

Aviculture has paid but little heed to CITES, leaving this important policy making body to government and various Non-Government Organizations (NGOs). Few of the delegates have anything favorable to say or wnte about aviculture, captive breeding and avian conservation. Aviculturists have done a poor job of publicizing their achievements with birds kept under captive breeding conditions.

A review of the CITES record demonstrates that policies have been adopted which give little or no favorable consideration to the captive breeding of avian species.

Every two years, some 125 nations send delegates to the CITES

Convention. The delegates are presented with data, some from governments, some from special organizations and some from Non Government Organizations. Few to no studies have been provided to CITES delegates by aviculturists.

Two years ago AFA's representatives were actively involved in the CITES convention in Ft. Lauderdale. Last September AFA raised issues concerning the captive breeding of endangered avian species during the Animals Committee Meeting in Guatemala. September 1996 will find the CITES Animals Committee again meeting. The Committee will consider sweeping policy changes having to do with captive breeding of endangered species. AFA intends to participate representing aviculture's views on captive breeding of endangered/threatened avian species.

Over the years CITES has been in existence, there is little evidence to indicate studies have been presented to CITES delegates which covered any of the values of captive breeding. On the other hand, many studies have been reported purporting to demonstrate that "somehow" aviculture or aviculture's activities have been detrimental to tl1e conservation of avian species.

Should You Care?

Everyone who owns a bird has some stake in poLicy decisions made by CITES delegates. 'This years Animals Committee meeting will be VERY important to aviculture. Serious breeders should take note. Individuals concerned about avian conservation should also take note. Individuals who have a small bird breeding hobby and even people with pet birds should be interested. If a retrogressive policy is eventually adopted by CITES delegates, it will undoubtedly adversely affect the availability of avian species for pets ... or breeding ... or anything else.

AFA's Role

AF A's commitment to active, continued participation in CITES may be crucial. AFA's commitment to aviculture and avian conservation, requires support of a strong position that captive breeding of (endangered/threatened) avian species is a proven, reasonable, scientific policy.

Also, issues over the term "commercial purposes" can have far reaching consequences to avian conservation, to captive breeding of endangered species as well as to aviculture in general.

AFA's commitment to avian conservation requires soLid support and AFA's continued attention to CITES issues, such as captive breeding of avian species. AFA's continued policy regarding captive breeding of avian species must include an adequate interpretation of the term "commercial purposes." Adoption of a...