Re: Wildlife Harvesting

Subject: Re: Wildlife Harvesting
From: Ronald Orenstein <>
Date: Thu, 06 Aug 1998 09:31:40 -0400
>In Birds of the World volume 4 there is a sensible discussion of these
>issues in regard to parrots. The author makes the point that it is neither
>moral nor realistic to expect the extremely poor inhabitants of south east
>asian, africa and south america to forgo one of their few sources of
>overseas currency, so argues for putting this trade on a sound ecological
>basis by establishing sustainable baselines. 

The difficulty with this argument is that it is extraordinarily difficult to
set up such an arrangement in practice. The reason for this is that the bird
trade as it exists today is driven by demand on the one hand and illegal
sources of supply and distribution on the other.  For example, there is a
massive trade in birds out of Africa, but the way it works is that birds are
funnelled illegally from countries all over the continent into Senegal or
Tanzania, and the money is made by well-off middlemen who control the trade
have no interest whatever in protecting the habitat from which the birds
The same is true for the enormous internal bird trade in Indonesia and Brazil.

In other words, the trade is NOT a cottage industry making money for poor
villagers who in turn protect the birds' habitat.  It is a lot more like rape,
and it's middlemen who get the money.  As long as it is difficult to tell
from illegal birds at the end market, poachers will be free to piggyback on
legal system - especially if the birds command high prices, as many parrots
do.  The result of this has been the endangerment of many species and the
impoverishment of many parrot populations.

I have challenged aviculturists to name me one square foot of habitat anywhere
on earth that has been protected because it is a source of birds for  the
trade.  I have yet to receive a positive answer.

My own view is that while the kind of "beneficial" trade discussed by other
posters here is theoretically possible in an ideal world, it is unlikely to be
practical as long as the current international bird trade flourishes.  In
Australia, I know there has been a lot of lobbying from certain quarters to
open up trade - I think in some cases because the political value for wildlife
traders fighting regulations like the CITES treaty in other parts of the world
of Australia turning its back on its trade bans would be enormous.  For
example, this has been pushed by the International Wildlife Management
Consortium, a group of wildlife traders funded in part by the Japanese and led
by former CITES Secretary-General Eugene Lapointe, who left CITES after having
used his position to lobby intensively against the 1989 ban on the ivory
trade.  I hope they fail.

Australia is one of the very few places in the world with parrot populations
that are thriving and healthy.  As the adage says, If it ain't broke, don't
Ronald I. Orenstein                           Phone: (905) 820-7886
International Wildlife Coalition              Fax/Modem: (905) 569-0116
1825 Shady Creek Court                 
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L5L 3W2          

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