Is Sustainable Trade of Wild Parrots Possible for Their Conservation in Cameroon?


The African country of Cameroon is 183,547 square miles in area, with 16.5 million people of approximately 200 ethnic groups. It has many development needs, with 50% of the population living on less than US$2 a day, and with life expectancy at birth still only 45.8 years of age. The people in Cameroon have long exploited the native wild parrots, especially the African Grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus), for diverse reasons including to supply the pet trade. However, there are concerns both within and outside of Cameroon that the levels of exploitation might be pushing the affected species into decline, especially when considered in the context of continuing loss of natural forest habitat due to conversion largely to agriculture. It is estimated that out of 84,943 square miles in this country which are forested (46.3% of the national territory), the current rate of deforestation per year is 385 square miles. All the wildlife protected areas combined occupy 15.2% of the national territory, representing about 27,845 square miles.

Nowadays the utilization of wildlife is usually considered in the context of the Convention on Biological Diversity established in 1992. The CBD has three main goals: the conservation of biological diversity (the variety of life on Earth), the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources. Many forms of life remain unexploited by humans, and of those which are utilized, it is no easy task to ensure that this happens in sustainable ways. Biological signs that wild species are being exploited unsustainably include a decline in the overall population, local extinctions and fragmentation of the geographical distribution, and demographic imbalances. Another clear indicator is a change of exploitation to other species.

Not Just in Cameroon, but also in other countries where they naturally occur, many species of parrots (Psittaciformes) are exploited, mainly for the pet trade, internal and external. The capture and trade of wild parrots is a source or supplement of livelihood for an unknown but probably substantial number of people. This activity is an aspect of present-day life which is completely unknown, or of little concern to millions more people, but for other people it is a complete anathema. Most opposition is on the grounds that the suffering and extent of mortality of wild-caught parrots are unacceptable. For some opposers there is also the conservation issue that the capture and trade of wild parrots can threaten their existence, and that there are serious complications to demonstrate that the exploitation is sustainable.

Cameroon is one of the countries where the capture and trade of wild parrots raises these issues. Therefore, since the beginning of 2006, the Loro Parque Fundaci6n has been supporting a project to assess the current situation of parrot exploitation in that country, in relation to changes in habitat availability and wild population estimates, as well as to external market influences. The project is led by Dr Simon Tamungang of the University of Dschang, Cameroon, in collaboration with Professor Robert Cheke of the Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, UK. Given the substantial development needs of the country, the project starts from the premise that the driving force behind the parrot trade in Cameroon is poverty alleviation and unemployment. Furthermore, the project recognises that parrot trade must be sustainable if it is to contribute properly to social and economic improvements, and therefore, sustainability is a key aspect of the evaluation. Given that sustainable export levels may be only around 10% of the current average exports reported annually, as suqgested by Birdlife International (2006), the potential sustainable harvest in Cameroon might still be economically exploitable, but only just. Two connected objectives of the project are to initiate a systematic population monitoring system in the country and to determine the level of sustainable harvest, leading to scientifically justified export quotas. The Animals Committee of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora) has called for scientificbased field surveys of wild populations, and the development of National and Regional Management Plans before resuming...



Birdlife International (2006) Review of the Status of the African Grey Parrot and Proposals to CITES for its Conservation. 22nd meeting of the Animals Committee, 7~ 13 July 2006, Lima, Peru.

CITES (2006) Summary record: Twentysecond meeting of the Animals Committee, 7~ 13 July 2006, Lima, Peru.

Tamungang, S. (2007) Sustainable

Trade and Conservation of Parrots in Cameroon. (Unpublished report to

the Loro Parque Fundaci6n). Dschang, Cameroon.

[Another version of this article appeared in Australian Bird keeper magazine].