Written Testimony Presented on Behalf of Private Aviculture of the United States


On July 29, 1992, the Report of the House of Representatives on H.R. 5013 was referred jointly to the Committees on Merchant Marine and Fisheries and Ways and Means of the House of Representatives. In that Report on what was to hecome the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 ("W13CA"), the Honorahle Walter B. Jones of North Carolina stated that "It is the intent of the Breeder's Bill to encourage captive hreeding both in the United States and elsewhere" [emphasis added]. It is the perception of private aviculture that the WBCA, which became P.L. 102- 440 on Octoher 23, 1992, has failed that charge from the Congress in several key areas. Prior to addressing these areas, permit us to define ourselves and our position.

Aviculturists in the private sector are generally individuals who have a gennine appreciation for and fascination with birds. They keep, study, breed and raise, exotic hirds in captivity either as devoted avocation or commercial activity. The majority of private aviculturists recognize their stewardship responsibilities and are deeply concerned over dwindling wild populations , ,: ran species and are sincerely dedicated to their conservation both in the wild and in captivity. Indeed, the mission statement of the American 

Federation of Aviculture (AFA) is "To preserve avian species on a worldwide basis." Aviculture has a commitment to establishing self-sustaining populations in captivity as well as habitat preservation and other conservation efforts in countries of origin. Aviculture believes that captive breeding is a valuable asset in conservation strategy by helping reduce demands on wild populations by virtue of making exotic birds readily available from captive-bred sources. Aviculture actively supports avian research resulting in improved knowledge and understanding of avian species. Aviculture is both a conservation and humanitarian effort. Aviculture represents grassroots participation at its best. Aviculture, as a cottage industry, contributes to taxes and the economy without cost to the government.

In this forum, AFA, a non-profit organization, is representing the private aviculture sector. When this testimony was submitted, nearly 300 organizations had joined with AFA's testimony or had requested to be listed as supporting the testimony. Our constituents include people ranging from pet bird owners to commercial exotic bird breeders. Pet birds are represented in 6 to 10% of the households in the United States and the population of pet birds is estimated to be on the order of 14 to 30 million birds. Commercial aviculture exists mainly in the form of many thousands


of small businesses but, collectively, the industry is large, on the order of $543.4 million in annual sales.

Aviculture has historically acknowledged that intense pressures have been and are being placed on exotic (nonnative to the United States) bird populations by a number of sources. Devastating habitat destruction, hunting for food and feathers and local use as pets, natural predation, planned programs of eradication in countries of origin, smuggling and, prior to WBCA, unregulated trade, were and continue to be grave concerns. While most of these pressures continue (trade with the United States for most Cl'TE'Sr-listed species having been eliminated by the WBCA), aviculture is committed to the concept of sustainable yield, the conservation of exotic birds in their natural habitats and in captivity, and the strict regulation of international trade in wildcaught birds for the pet market.

Aviculture was, in fact one of the original participants of the Cooperative Working Group on the Bird Trade, organized by World Wildlife Fund. As part of this Group, aviculture formally acknowledged in 1988 the need for a regulated, sustainable trade in and wise use of wild-caught exotic birds in order to make them valuable assets in their countries of origin, and to promote saving them and their habitats. Aviculture also pointed out the need to address concerns regarding planned programs of avian eradication in countries of origin. Certain species of birds are seen not as resources to be used as economic incentives in their range countries but are considered pests to be destroyed.

In 1992, aviculture supported the concept of the WBCA. As part of that Act, aviculture stressed the need to promote, encourage, and facilitate captive breeding of exotic birds in the U.S. and abroad. Aviculture supported the WBCA based, in part, upon the understanding that one cornerstone would be the free trade in captivebred exotic birds. Congress agreed, by enacting P.L. 102-440 which attempted to (1) insure that trade in wildcaught exotic birds involving the United States would be biologically sustainable and not detrimental to wild populations and (2) promote the role of captive breeding or aviculture to supply trade requirements as an alternative to harvest from the wild.

Even now, private aviculture is not in favor of repealing the WBCA.