Exporting Australian birds

Subject: Exporting Australian birds
From: "RAOU Conservation (Hugo Phillipps)" <>
Date: Wed, 20 Nov 1996 11:06:24 +1100 (EST)
Since Trevor copied the post to WED about exporting Adelaide Rosellas, I am
copying my response to it to birding-aus:

The anonymous post about exporting Adelaide Rosellas (WED 28, Topic #8)
raises once again the contentious and interconnected issues surrounding the
utilisation of pest species as pets.  The trouble is that there are
ideologues and fundamentalists at both ends of the debate, and many confused
and uninformed people in between.

The pure economic rationalists want to allow free market forces determine
the monetary value of birds, with the profits on harvesting being an
incentive to preserve habitat.  This may work with some species, in some
places, sometimes.  However, markets and fashions change, and no
consideration is given to the potentially far greater, but complex and very
long-term values inherent in the evolving genetic and ecosystem diversity of
healthy natural environments.  What this comes down to is that there is
great danger in the blanket endorsement of this purist approach, and every
application must be looked at very carefully on its merits.

The other end of the debate stars some green fundamentalists who have
attached mystical and culturally subjective values to the superficial
aspects of complex environments, and see any kind of harvesting as
blasphemous.  Another twist comes from those who focus on the welfare of
individual animals rather than on the conservation of biodiversity; they are
split between those who think that holding any animal in captivity is evil,
and the pet proponents who want to solve the problem of pest birds by
putting them in cages rather than destroying them.

What has intensified the debate in Australia is that strict controls on the
export of native fauna have given many species high market values overseas.
This is a defensive and conservative approach to fauna protection which may
have flaws, especially since it is not adequately backed up by uniform and
complementary state legislation within Australia.  It has, however, served
to simplify control of the export trade in Australian birds by making it
almost all illegal rather than allowing an illegal trade in highly
threatened species to flourish under the cover of a legal one in pest species.

If there is any merit in amending the controls over the export of Australian
native birds, it would relate to species, subspecies or distinct varieties
that are in high demand by bird collectors, in order to facilitate their
captive breeding and reduce market pressures on wild populations.  However,
it would complicate matters in the short-term, and increasing avicultural
skill in breeding hitherto difficult species should make this unnecessary in
the long-term.

As for exporting pest species - flooding the market with cheap and
unsuitable (if wild-caught as adults) pets would be a very short-term bonus
for land owners, would do nothing to solve the pest problem where they were
caught, and might well spread the problem further afield.  Not only would it
be unsustainable, it would also be highly irresponsible.

Regards,  Hugo.

Hugo Phillipps,
RAOU Conservation & Liaison,
Australian Bird Research Centre,
415 Riversdale Road,
Hawthorn East, VIC 3123, Australia.
Tel: +61 3 9882 2622. Fax: +61 3 9882 2677.
Email: <>
The Virtual Emu:

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