From: Reuters
Published December 6, 2007 11:29 AM

Ethiopian Airlines denies wildlife allegations

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopian Airlines said on Thursday it was not aware of a Cameroonian conservation group's allegation that the state-run airline was involved in illegal wildlife smuggling.

The Yaounde-based Last Great Ape Organization, working with Cameroonian security forces, seized a consignment of 500 African Grey parrots on Tuesday on an Ethiopian Airlines plane shortly before it was due to take off.

LAGA said on Wednesday it was considering suing Ethiopian Airlines for complicity.

"We have no knowledge of the allegation that Ethiopian Airlines was involved in an international illegal trade in wildlife," airline spokesman Leoul Tekelemedhin said. "We will study the case and respond to the allegation in due course."

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The African Grey is a medium-sized parrot which is prized as a pet. It is said to be one of the world's most intelligent birds, partly for its ability to mimic human speech.

The species is listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, to which Cameroon is a signatory. The pact requires exporters to have a permit issued by a national authority.

Cameroonian authorities arrested to Ghanaians just over a week ago for trying to illegally export another batch of 500 parrots. The two sets of birds are worth an estimated $800,000.

(Reporting by Tsegaye Tadesse; Editing by Bryson Hull)

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