EDITORIAL PAGE It Seems to Me ...


American aviculture has been serious I y impugned. We have taken a \'ery heavy blow to our credibility, and our sincerity is in g ra ve dou b t , Do we or do we not have a healthy regard for the earth's environmerit and its wild flora and fauna/ Do we really have a reverence for birds? ls aviculture driven by our love and concern for the birds - or by profit without regard for the birds? There may be some doubts.

A strong case for the profit-only motive is making news even as l write these words. By now most of you have heard or read in various newspapers that bird expert and avicultural guru Tony Silva has been indicted on 15 counts for alleged viola ti ons of the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the Lacey Act, Federal quara nrine regulations, as well as certain provisions of CITES. There are also alleged violations of various wildlife protection laws of several other countries.

These latest indictments result out of Operation Renegade, an international undercover investigation that has already conuicted 30 individuals for involvement in parrot smuggling and other related crimes. On 13 December 1994 (Surprisell Merry Christmas!'), James Burns, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement Chief, John Doggett Ill, announced the return of the indictments against Tony Silva, his mother, Gila Daoud and co-conspirators Gisela Caseres (aka Ann Koopman) of Asuncion, Paraguay, and Hector Ugalde of Miami, Beach, Florida.

Silva and Daoud are charged with conspiring to smuggle at least 186 endangered Hyacinth Macaws into the U.S.A. in addition to a few other species of protected birds, including Vinaceous Amazons and Crimson-bellied Conures. Counts 3 through 10, 14 and 15 also


charge them with facilitating the transportation of, concealing, and possession of protected parrots, knowing the birds were smuggled. Caseres is alleged to have supplied most of the birds for

ilva and Daoud, and Ugalde to have arranged the smuggling of 50 Hyacinth Macaws from Mexico to the U.

Gila Daoud is alleged to have run the family smuggling business under the direction of her son, Silva, while he was serving the avicultural and zoo commun ities as Curator of Birds at Lorn Park, Tenerife, Canary Islands. When search warrants were executed at Daoud's home, contraband ivory and a parrotfeather headdress were confiscated, and


charges were filed alleging the smuggling of those items also.

lf convicted, Daoud could receive a maximum prison sentence of 50 years and a fine of $2.75 million. Silva could be sentenced to 45 years in prison and be fined $2.5 million. Caseres and Ugalde could get up to five years in prison with a possible total of fines amounting to $250,000. Happy New Year, guys.

Please keep in mind that indictments are not convictions. ln the United States all persons are considered innocent until proven guilty. ln my heart of hearts, l really hope Silva is innocent. l hate to think that any aviculrurist in this day and age would become involved in an activity that is harmful to the world's population of birds. Our mission is to enhance the well-being of the birds. If Silva is guilty, l hope that he gets pounded.

o, what are the ramifications of these charges? Well, for one thing, they support my earlier editorial wherein I said that the times are changing. I can go to almost any important meeting of old time aviculturists and point out in my mind quite a number of highly respected aviculrurists whom l personally


know to have violated a few wildlife rules years ago. Thirty years ago, moving birds across borders and beating the I.R.S. on bird profits was an acceptable game one could play. Even the more honorable folks could participate without impugning their character. Also during that time there were numerous forms of racial discrimination (segregated schools, separate drinking fountains, etc.), there was blatant gender discrimination, there was rampant exploitation of the world's resources, and even zoo animals were often kept under conditions unacceptable by today's standards. And these situations were OK to most reasonable and righteous folks of that time. But tbat way oflife is gone forever. Times have changed.

Fortunately, the vast majority of aviculturists have also changed with the times and are now enthusiastic environmentalists and supporters of reasonable wildlife regulations. And even when a few unreasonable or ridiculous laws get on the books, today's average aviculturist does not blithely violate them but, rather, attempts to change the laws through the political process.

In this day and age, those who smuggle birds and violate other wildlife laws and fail to report bird profits to the I.RS. are crooks, plain and simple. If Silva is convicted, I hope none of you bird shuffling, tax cheating miserable excuses for worthy human beings has the gall to point your finger at him in blame. You deserve the same fate and, with a little luck, will get it.

But where does this leave the majority of us? Our philosophical opponents paint us all with the same damaging brush. Silva was a respected leader in -worldaviculture and he seems to have violated his trust absolutely. If such a leader cannot be trusted, how much less the average obscure backyard breeder. We have all been damaged just at a time when our credibility is extremely important. We are in political and philosophical disagreement with a cadre of hard core animal rights fanatics whose ultimate goal is no use ofany animal whatsoever for any reason. The fanatic leadership of several powerful animal rights organizations wants to stop all medical research on animals, eliminate meat from your diet and outlaw all animal farming. They want to eliminate all zoos, rodeos, circuses, pony rides and any other entertaining use of animals no matter how humane and gentle the use may be.