Tag Archives: trade

Caribbean Against Wildlife Smuggling

St. Vincent Parrots, endemic to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in flight. (Photo courtesy of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tourism Authority)

(Scott Johnson; 5 March, 2017)

Scott Johnson, Science Officer with the Bahamas National Trust, shares the work that he and his fellow conservationists are doing to help raise awareness about the issue of wildlife smuggling.

As a Caribbean native, I can wholeheartedly understand people’s obsession with our region. The lush green vegetation, white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, delicious food, and warm tropical climate are all hallmarks of the Caribbean experience. Every year many people, aka “snowbirds” flock to this region by the millions for a welcome respite from the frozen north.

In addition to “sun, sea and sand,” visitors also enjoy the Caribbean’s abundant wildlife, including the chance to spot spectacular native birds like parrots, trogons and todies, swim with sharks and rays, snorkel on a tropical reef, interact with rock iguanas, and even watch sea turtles laying their eggs in a nest they dig right on the beach. Unfortunately, some people want to do more than just observe the wildlife—they want to take a souvenir home, purchasing wildlife products for fashion, pets, and novel foods. This is causing a serious threat to the long-term survival of many native species.

The Caribbean is a virtual treasure trove of biological diversity. In fact, it is one of the most important biological hotspots in the world, home to thousands of endemic plants and animals. For example, 172 species of birds are Caribbean endemics, found no place else on earth. Many of these species are found on only one or two islands in the entire region. The novelty of these species unfortunately makes them key targets for smugglers.

Wildlife smuggling is one of the largest illegal activities in the world, a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide. Every year, tens of thousands of animals and animal products are smuggled to places like Asia, the US and other countries to satisfy people’s insatiable appetites for the new and exotic. In Trinidad and Tobago, birds like the Chestnut-bellied Seed Finch and Blue-and-Yellow Macaw are key species targeted by smugglers. In 2011, 74 eggs from both Black-billed Parrots and Yellow-billed Parrots were smuggled out of Jamaica into Austria in rum cake boxes by tourists visiting Jamaica. On the island of Hispaniola, Hispaniolan Parrots have been captured and sold in the wildlife trade and are illegally kept as pets, while a single St. Vincent Parrot is said to be worth $100,000 on the black market.

What’s being done to help curb this threat in the Caribbean?

Law enforcement is an extremely important tool in the battle against wildlife smuggling. Sadly, protection of native wildlife from illegal capture and smuggling has not been a major priority for many Caribbean countries. In addition, many enforcers do not have a well-rounded knowledge about their native species. This is where wildlife sensitization comes in.  For the past two years……….

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Songsters of Singapore: An Overview of the Bird Species in Singapore Pet Shops

James A. Eaton, Boyd T. C. Leupen and Kanitha Krishnasamy,February 2017)


Singapore has a long history of involvement in the bird trade. Recent analysis of the trade in CITES Appendix I and II-listed birds from over 30 countries between 2005 and 2014, highlights that Singapore issued commercial import- and export permits for a total of 225 561 and 136 912 birds respectively. This involved 212 species, of which 30 were classified by the IUCN as Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered.

Another study on the import and export of CITES-listed birds from the Solomon Islands in 2011 found Singapore to be the importer of 72% of the 68 000 wild-caught and reportedly captive-bred birds from the Solomon Islands, with the vast majority of these birds subsequently being re-exported.

In both studies, attention was drawn to the illegal sourcing of birds, and Singapore’s role in moving these birds into the legal global market.

TRAFFIC undertook a rapid assessment of the open bird trade in Singapore’s pet shops. Surveys of 39 pet shops, were conducted over four days in November and December 2015. The most heavily traded CITES Appendix I-listed bird was the Yellow-shouldered Amazon Amazona barbadensis with at least 16 recorded individuals. Overall, 41 CITES Appendix II species were recorded, totalling 350 individuals.

From the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, only one Critically Endangered species was observed; Yellow-crested Cockatoo Cacatua sulphurea (two individuals).

Two Endangered species were encountered, namely

  • Lilac-crowned Amazon Amazona finschi (n=3) and
  • Sun Parakeet Aratinga solstitialis (n=16), although two further species,
  • Grey Parrot Psittacus erithacus (n=15) and
  • Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus (n=1), were subsequently (December 2016) uplisted to this category (from Vulnerable).

Eight Vulnerable species (excluding Grey Parrot and Straw-headed Bulbul, but including the December 2016 uplisted Greater Green Leafbird Chloropsis sonnerati and Javan White-eye Zosterops flavus were found, totalling 66 individuals.

Sixty-seven percent (9452) individuals of seven species) of the total number of encountered birds were flagged as species of immediate concern at the first Asian Songbird Crisis Summit, held in Singapore in 2015.


At present, it is not possible to determine if the bird trade in Singapore is occurring illegally, and if so, to what extent. This can only be done if the following information is made available:

• The quantity of CITES species and individuals registered for import and export, and disclosure of any quotas set by the Government for trade.

• Captive breeding activities within Singapore, including information on registered breeders and the volumes of species meant for domestic and/or international trade.

• Processes and protocols in place to regulate non-CITES, non-protected species that are being imported and exported from Singapore.

The Animal Welfare and Control Division of AVA, which issues licenses to pet shops, should conduct regular inspections to ensure that shops have the correct permits for all imported and captive-bred species, and when applicable, CITES-permits for CITES-listed species. In order for consumers to make wise purchasing decisions, AVA should introduce a regulatory requirement (including penalties for ITS violation) for shop owners to provide information on the name of  the bird, its CITES status (if it involves a CITES-listed species), and its source (wild-caught/captive  bred). This would allow consumers to make a conscious decision on whether to buy sustainably sourced pets or not.