Common name: Parrots
Scientific name: Psittacines
Distribution: South America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand
Parrots are known for being charismatic, intelligent and musical. Some of these birds can imitate non-avian sounds, like human speech! Male African grey parrots are well known for their stellar ability to impersonate humans.
These birds are a diverse bunch - around the world there are over 350 different species. So, what defines a parrot? All of them have curved beaks and four toes on each foot, two pointing backward and two pointing forward.
While a human has about 10,000 tastebuds in their mouth, parrots only have 300. Most are located on the roof of their mouth. This doesn’t stop them having favourite foods, with diets consisting mostly of fruit, flowers, buds, nuts, seeds and insects.
Some parrots may live just as long as you. In the wild many will live for nearly 80 years. New Zealand’s Kākāpō, a large flightless, nocturnal parrot, is known for having one of the longest parrot lifespans of 90 years!
Threats to African grey parrots
African grey parrots are one of the most illegally trafficked birds in the world. Over the last 40 years it is estimated that 2-3 million of these parrots have been poached from the wild.
The process of poaching is distressing and cruel. The birds are lured to a sticky branch from which they can’t escape, often using another parrot that has been injured and restrained to provoke it to screech. Being highly social birds, they will usually approach to investigate the noise and be captured.
Next, they are transferred to a holding facility where they are kept in dark and dirty spaces, fed inadequately and often left vulnerable to predators. If they survive this, they are crammed into crates with approximately 60-80 other birds, where they sometimes remain squashed together for 24 hours or longer.
Viciously stolen from the wild to be sold as pets, they must now endure captivity for the rest of their lives. The stress of captivity results in unnatural behaviours, most commonly feather plucking, an obsessive and compulsive behaviour associated with chronic stress and boredom.
Watch the documentary: Wild at heart
CONTENT WARNING: Video contains some graphic imagery
What World Animal Protection is doing to protect African grey parrots
Many exotic pet owners buy these birds unaware of the trauma and cruelty they are subjected to before arriving in their home. That’s why we believe it is important to spread the word on what these animals endure.
Turkish Airlines and Turkish Cargo are known to be prominent exporters of illegally trafficked African grey parrots. Traffickers use the airline to transport birds from Nigeria and Mali to countries in the Middle East and western and southern Asia.
In 2019, in only 11 days, 80,000 people signed our petition to Turkish Airlines. As a result, the airline issued an instant global embargo on transporting African grey parrots on their planes. This petition allows us to remain in contact and lobby for an end to all exotic pet transportation on their planes in the future.
In 2021, our investigations into the aviation industry’s role in wildlife transportation in West Africa continued. We discovered Ethiopian Airlines is a major culprit for the commercial shipping of live wild animals around the world for use as exotic pets including African Grey Parrots.
We continue fighting for the animals who suffer in the exotic pet trade through, investigation, education and awareness. Through this work, we can change the public’s perception, disrupt trade and continue to work with international bodies to improve regulations on exotic pets.