The Conservation Corner


In an earlier issue of The Conservation Corner, Rick Jordan of Hill Country Aviaries gave us the scoop on "CITES" - the "Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species." As a follow up to that article, this issue of the Conservation Corner deals with the Wild Bird Conservation Act (WBCA), enacted in 1992 to meet the obligations of the US as a signatory to CITES. Briefly, the stated purpose of the WBCA is to ensure that exotic bird species are not harmed by international trade. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) was given the authority to issue permits to allow import of listed birds for scientific research, zoological breeding or display, or personal pet purposes when the applicant meets certain criteria. The FWS may also approve cooperative breeding programs of WBCA-protected birds, and subsequent import permits under such breeding programs (AFA oversees a number of such "cooperative breeding programs"). The WBCA also hoped to encourage wild bird conservation programs in countries of origin. For example, wild-caught birds may be imported into the United States if they come from FWS-approved management plans for sustainable use of the species. A multitude of websites deal with the WBCA, but one of the more useful collections of official USFWS information (including downloadable copies of forms) is at web%20list%20wbca.htm.

This is the official line. But what does the WBCA mean for aviculturists in the United States? I am happy to be able to provide you that information with a well researched, insightful article by Sandee Molenda, owner of the Parrotlet Ranch and frequent contributor of legislative information to AFA.

The WBCA Revealed, by Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S. In 1992, Congress enacted, and President George H.W. Bush signed into law, the Wild Bird Conservation Act (WBCA).

With a simple stroke of a pen, overnight, the face of American aviculture was changed forever. Not since the Lacey Act of 1900, where every species of birds suddenly came under Federal regulation, had Congress enacted a law that so profoundly regulated the keeping and breeding of species of exotic birds in the United States. Although aviculture has seen an explosion of people involved with birds since its passage, few aviculturists today have even heard of the WBCA and even fewer know what it is or how it affects their birds.

Purpose: The WBCA was designed for two purposes - to conserve exotic birds and to meet the United States' obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

It was specifically designed to prohibit or severely limit imports of exotic birds regardless if the species is covered or not under CITES. It was also to provide standards for qualifying bird breeding facilities and retail outlets, establishment of the Exotic Bird Conservation Fund and authorized Federal mandates for marketing, identification and record keeping of exotic birds.

The purpose of the WBCA is to promote the conservation of exotic birds as follows:

(1) Assist wild bird conservation and management programs in the countries of origin of wild birds

(2) Ensure trade in species of exotic birds involving the U.S. is biologically sustainable and not detrimental

(3) Limit or prohibit imports of exotic birds to ensure that wild exotic bird populations are not harmed by removal of exotic birds from the wild for trade

(4) Ensure exotic birds in trade are not subject to inhumane treatment

(5) Encourage and support effective implementation of CITES

History: At the time the WBCA was first proposed, the U.S. was the world's largest importer of exotic birds and a party to CITES. The avicultural community, along with many other diverse groups and individuals including biologists, veterinarians and ornithologists worked to develop legislation that would not be detrimental to native populations of birds. Many avicultural organizations got together and sent representatives to testify before U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as well as encouraged their members to lobby Congress. Many important strides were made on behalf of aviculture, however, organizations representing animal rights groups pushed for more severe restrictions as well as outright bans on bird ownership. The International Parrotlet Society succeeded in being the only organization to have species listed on the Approved Captive Bred Species for Import list. Congress, however, subsequently determined that the international pet trade in wild-caught exotic birds was contributing to the decline of species in the wild and that the mortality associated with the trade was unacceptably...