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Friday, August 6, 1999 Published at 08:04 GMT 09:04 UK


Quarter of parrot species on brink

New Zealand's kakapo: Conservationists are giving the birds hormone treatment to improve their fertility

By Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby

One parrot species in four is in danger of extinction, according to a study by two nature groups.

Richard Wilson: Parrot species on the brink of extinction
The two, the World Parrot Trust and the Worldwide Fund for Nature, say research by the World Conservation Union shows that 27% of the world's 330 parrot species are in severe danger.

They are launching a parrot action plan to help conserve the 89 species at risk, and want recovery teams set up for each individual species.

Four die for every sale

The groups say the two main threats to the birds are habitat loss and the pet trade.

They say the global trade in parrots is a significant part of the $5bn-a-year international wildlife trade, with 58 parrot species facing extinction as a direct result.

For every bird that survives the trauma of being caught and sold, they estimate at least four more will die before finding a buyer.

A report prepared by the two groups says governments must take firm action to:

  • increase protection for forests;
  • promote the independent certification of managed forests by the Forest Stewardship Council, which makes sure that timber is felled from sustainable sources;
  • enforce the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Comedy campaign

The two campaigns are enlisting the help of the Monty Python star John Cleese, who featured in the famous "dead parrot" comedy sketch.

[ image: The scarlet macaw: Imperilled by the wildlife trade]
The scarlet macaw: Imperilled by the wildlife trade
Cleese says: "A pet parrot can need as much attention as a human baby, and it can need it for up to 50 years.

"So, please, think carefully before you bring a pet parrot into your home."

Among the most endangered parrots is the Spix's macaw, with just one lone male still known to be in the wild in Brazil. In Bolivia, the hyacinth macaw, one of the largest parrots, numbers about 3,000 birds.

Two companies, Shell and Enron, say they are about to start building a gas pipeline through the birds' last remaining forest stronghold. The flightless New Zealand kakapo is extinct in the wild, with only 54 left in semi-captivity.

They are being given hormone treatment to improve their fertility in the hope that they will breed their way back to health.

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The World Parrot Trust


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