U.S. Fish & Wildlife Explanation of Wild Bird Conservation Act Misconceptions


Editor's Note: Roddy Gabel (Office of Scientific Authority) and Dr. Susan Lieberman (Office of Management Authority) have asked the editors ojWatchbird magazine to publish the following information on the Wild Bird Conservation Act to give a better understanding of what the WBCA actually does and to clarify several misconceptions that have become evident from letters and communications received by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We (Dale R. Thompson and Sheldon L. Dingle) urge all of our readers to read the following letter.

May 2, 1994

Dear Editor:

We request the publication in your magazine of the following discussion of the Wild Bird Conservation Act, in which we address some common misconceptions of bird breeders and bird owners around the United States.

The Wild Bird Conservation Act (WBCA) was unanimously passed by Congress and was signed into law October 23, 1992; it is a major step in the conservation of wild birds subject to international trade. The WBCA limits imports of exotic bird species to ensure that their populations are not harmed by trade. It also encourages wild bird conservation programs in countries of origin by ensuring that all trade in such species involving the United States is both biologically sustainable and to the benefit of the species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) of the Department of the Interior is the agency of the Federal Government charged with implementation and enforcement of theWBCA.
New laws and regulations derived from them are frequently a source of confusion and misunderstanding for the people affected by them. This has certainly been the case for the WBCA, and we appreciate this opportunity to clarify some misconceptions and misunderstandings about this important new law. Nearly a year and a half after its enactment, the WBCA is still not fully understood by some bird owners, aviculturists, importers, and other constituencies interested in it. On behalf of the Service, we would like to encourage an open dialogue with all of these individuals and organizations representing them, in the interest of wild bird conservation. What the WBCA Does

First, we would like to define what the WBCA actually does. The WBCA only restricts imports of certain exotic bird species into the United States. The WBCA has no effect on sale, interstate or intrastate commerce, or breeding within the United States, or export of exotic birds from the United States. The nature of the import restrictions of the WBCA depends on whether or not a species is listed in one of the Appendices to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). In passing the WBCA, Congress specifically excluded 10 families of gamebirds and ratites from its provisions. These include the Phasianidae (pheasants, quail, peafowl, junglefowl, etc.), Numididae (guineafowl), Cracidae (curassows, guans, and chachalacas), Meleagrididae (turkeys), Megapodiidae (megapodes), Anatidae (ducks, geese, and swans), Struthionidae (ostriches), Rheidae (rheas), Dromaii- nae (emus), and Gruidae (cranes). Several individuals have written to the Service to ask that other families or orders of birds be exempted completely from the provisions of the WBCA; the Service cannot do so, since the exclusion of these families was a decision of Congress.

Except for the 10 families named above, if an exotic bird species is listed in one of the CITES Appendices CI, II, or III), it is prohibited from import, unless an individual shipment has a WBCA import permit, or the species is listed in an approved list. For a permit to be issued, the import must meet the criteria established in the WBCA and implementing regulations for: (1) scientific research, (2) personally owned pet birds of persons who have resided outside the United States for at least a year, (3) zoological breeding or display programs, and (4) certain cooperative breeding programs. If an import is found to qualify for one of these exemptions, a WBCA import permit can be issued to allow the import.

Imports for cooperative breeding programs require a two-tiered process whereby first the breeding program itself is approved as qualifying under the WBCA and then individual import permits may be issued to individuals for purposes related to their participation in the program. That is in order to expedite processing of import permits, after a program is approved.