Capture for pet trade has been one of the main threats for the preservation of wild parrots (image: Igor Berkunsky)

Sept. 28, 2017 – More than a 38 % of the Neotropical parrot population of the American continent (Neotropic) is endangered due the impact of human activity, according to a scientific study published in the journal Biological Conservation by an international team that has the participation of Juan Carlos Guix, collaborator in the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences of the Faculty of Biology of the University of Barcelona.

Hunting for local and international trade and the loss of natural habitat are the main threats for these tropical birds of the order Psittaciformes, according to the article led by the experts Igor Berkunsky (National University of Central Buenos Aires) and Juan Masello (Justus Liebig University, Germany). The research study has the collaboration of 101 experts from seventy-six institutions and non-governmental organizations that could determine the main threats affecting 192 populations of ninety-six Neotropical parrots in twenty-one countries.

From hunting pets to extinction

Capture for pet trade has been one of the main threats for the preservation of wild parrots. From 1980 to 1990, millions of individuals were captured in the Neotropic and taken to the United States and Asia. This huge removal of parrots could be the cause of the decline and local extinction of many species, such as the Spix’s macaw. In the African continent, the trade of the grey parrot played a main role in its removal in Ghana and other areas of Africa. Currently, some of the most threatened species in Brazil are the Spix’s macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii) and the red-tailed amazon (Amazona brasiliensis). Species such as the sun parakeet (Aratinga solstitialis) and brown-backed parrotlet (Touit melanonotus) are in a quite vulnerable situation due the small size of its populations.

Regarding protection, the Wild Bird Conservation Act (1992), launched by the United States and the permanent ban on wild bird trade set by the European Union (2007) contributed to the reduction of international trade in big markets. However, South America, South Eastern Asia and the Middle East are still playing an important role in the legal and illegal trade. Some countries of the Neotropic have reinforced their laws to protect wild parrots, such as in Mexico and Nicaragua. However, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico and Peru still have worrying levels of local trade.

When the natural habitat disappears

Agricultural activity, selective large-scale logging and other human activities have altered the natural habitat of these species, which are affected by an average rate of ten different threats. This situation is risking the 38 % of the populations of Neotropic Psittacifiormes, but the real scene could be even worse than estimated, according to the experts.

According to Juan Carlos Guix, “it would be necessary to promote actions aimed at the effective preservation of habitats and preserved natural areas. Moreover, it should be necessary to create social and educational programs with the people who live around the natural preserved areas, and provide security and the illegal trade audit with more resources”.

The new study, published in the journal Biological Conservation is set by the Working Group Psittacisformes (WGP) of the International Ornithologists Union (IOU). This group, with more than 200 experts worldwide, is led by Juan Masello and has the researcher Igor Berkunsky as the coordinator of the Neotropic region.

Full bibliographic information Current threats faced by Neotropical parrot populations. Igor Berkunsky et al.
Biological Conservation
Volume 214, October 2017, Pages 278-287