Conservation Groups Applaud European Decision to Ban Import of Wild Birds

In a move welcomed by conservation and animal welfare groups, the European Commission today temporarily banned the import of all live wild birds into Europe.

LONDON — In a move welcomed by conservation and animal welfare groups, the European Commission today temporarily banned the import of all live wild birds into Europe. The decision was taken in response to calls from UK and German ministers after a parrot imported into the UK tested positive for avian flu. "This is an important first step," said Dr. James Gilardi, Director of the World Parrot Trust. "However, both human health and conservation concerns dictate that this ban become permanent."

Last year, over 230 conservation and animal welfare groups urged the European Commission to halt the import of wild birds. The European Union imports 1.76 million birds annually, an amount equal to over 90% of the global market. "Though the ban issued today is temporary, the risk we face from wildlife-borne diseases is here to stay," said Carroll Muffett, Senior Director for International Conservation at Defenders of Wildlife. "In the world in which we live, it no longer makes sense to import wild birds as pets. The risk is too great."

The ban is also critical to the survival of parrots and songbirds in the wild. Though some parrot species are protected under Appendix I of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species which prohibits the commercial trade in those species, massive numbers of other birds continue to be imported despite scientific studies that show the trade is not sustainable. But the number of birds that make it to European shores represents only a small fraction of those harvested; 40-70% of all wild birds captured die before export.

Conservationists countered claims that a ban might drive the trade underground. Indeed, a widely cited scientific study found that banning legal trade is the surest way to reduce illegal trade. The U.S. experience with the U.S. bird ban has demonstrated that simple and clear rules -- i.e. "no birds allowed" -- are the most effective control measure for three reasons: one, a simple ban is far easier for border personnel to implement than a complex regulatory scheme; second, when a ban extends across all birds, it becomes more effective still, because mislabeling a prohibited species as a permissible import becomes impossible; finally, clear rules deter would-be smugglers. It has been estimated that the US ban has saved over 8.5 million birds since it was enacted in 1992.

"Today's temporary ban on the import of wild birds was triggered by concerns over the spread of avian flu, but there is ample evidence that broader human health and conservation goals would be best served by a permanent ban," said Muffett.

Defenders of Wildlife is a leading nonprofit conservation organization recognized as one of the nation's most progressive advocates for wildlife and its habitat. With more than 490,000 members and supporters, Defenders of Wildlife is an effective leader on endangered species issues.

World Parrot Trust is a UK based charity working around the globe for parrot conservation and welfare. For more information, please visit or

The International Fund for Animal Welfare. IFAW at works to improve the welfare of wild and domestic animals throughout the world by reducing commercial exploitation of animals, protecting wildlife habitats, and assisting animals in distress. IFAW seeks to motivate the public to prevent cruelty to animals and to promote animal welfare and conservation policies that advance the well-being of both animals and people.

LRBPO - Bird Protection Belgium. Bird Protection Belgium (LRBPO), a large national animal welfare organization in Belgium founded in 1922, works to improve the protection of wild animals and birds in Europe and the conservation of their habitats through education, emergency rescue and promotion of policy changes for better conservation efforts.

Source: PR Newswire; World Parrot Trust; Defenders of Wildlife; Pro Wildlife; International Fund for Animal Welfare