Wild bird import bans must be backed by crackdown on smugglers
BirdLife is calling on countries around the world to intensify efforts to stem the illegal trade in wild-caught birds, following recent detection of the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus in both legally imported and smuggled birds.
As the H5N1 avian influenza virus continues to spread, the European Commission is deciding whether to ban the import of wild-caught birds. BirdLife considers a total ban on currently legal wild bird imports to be essential to reduce the risk of H5N1 entering Europe via infected birds, but warns measures must be taken to counter any rise in smuggling that might follow such a ban. Controls and inspections need to be tightened by both exporting and importing countries.
"Any move to restrict legal bird imports must be combined with controls on illegal trade worldwide." —Dr Leon Bennun, Director of Science and Policy, BirdLife International
The European Commission is responding to the death of a South American parrot from H5N1, while in quarantine in the UK. The parrot is believed to have been infected by birds imported from Asia that shared the same holding facility.
Last week, Taiwanese authorities found eight birds infected with H5N1 in a seized consignment of more than 1,000 smuggled from the southeast Chinese city of Fuzhou. "This case highlights the problems that illegal trade could pose for even the best-regulated systems of disease control," said Dr Leon Bennun, BirdLife International’s Director of Policy. "BirdLife urges Governments to intrensify inspections and operations to combat illegal wild bird trade both for health and conservation issues."
Millions of live wild-caught birds are thought to be traded each year. A significant proportion of this trade is illegal. At least 117 species of bird are globally threatened with extinction through trapping for the cage-bird trade.