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Last Updated: Thursday July 06 2006 12:10 GMT

Parrots 'at risk from bird trade'

An African Grey parrot

Britain's favourite talking parrot is being put at risk of extinction by the wild bird trade, say campaigners.

Experts are worried the African Grey, famous for having a chatty personality, may become a threatened species as its numbers in the wild have dropped.

The Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB) said this showed that controls on trading the birds are not strict enough.

It is now calling for the European Union to ban all imports of wild birds.

Duncan McNiven, from the RSPB said: "The pet trade has been exploiting wild birds for decades.

"A permanent ban would not stop pet owners keeping these birds. Parrots bred in captivity make much better pets and are better suited to life in a cage than birds caught in the wild."

Trade

The African Grey is one of 3,000 bird species bought or sold as pets.

Official records show that about 360,000 of the creatures were legally traded between 1994 and 2003 but this number does not include those smuggled or those who died before they reach the pet shops.

The problem of the African Grey will be discussed at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) which opens on Friday.