Letter to the UN Environment Programme Expresses Concern Over Transfer of Rare Dominican Parrots to Germany

Here’s an update on the petition, which I shared in my last blog post. Eleven conservation organisations have signed an open letter to the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Erik Solheim regarding the export of Dominica’s beloved parrots to Germany.  If you have not already signed, please read the statement from BirdsCaribbean for more background on this issue. Thank you!

The Imperial Amazon, or Sisserou, is the National Bird of Dominica and appears on the country’s flag.

April 9, 2018

Dear Mr. Solheim,

We the undersigned write today to address grave concerns regarding a recent transfer of extremely rare birds from the Commonwealth of Dominica to the Federal Republic of Germany under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

This transfer undermines decades of dedicated conservation work in the region and exploits a small island nation just as it begins to recover from the most devastating hurricane in its recorded history. Moving these wild-hatched birds from their home island to a private facility in Germany is not the first such event – endemic, endangered parrots have been transferred from other eastern Caribbean islands to the same private facility. Hence our collective concern that this will not be the last such transfer and our desire to prevent future actions which will further undermine legitimate efforts to save these rare species from extinction.

The justification for moving these birds, purported as an emergency action to protect their species from future hurricanes and volcanoes, is unfounded. In fact, these 12 individual parrots were already safely held in captivity and had survived catastrophic Hurricane Maria in September. They were being attended to by the CITES Scientific Authority for Dominica, the Forestry, Wildlife and Parks Division, with support from IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare). [Do read: IFAW’s article on Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release of Dominica’s Parrots here]. Likewise, in Puerto Rico, a similar captive population of threatened parrots survived the same storm, proving that preparations made on both islands effectively protect these birds from such threats, however severe. Since both species involved in this shipment – Amazona imperialis and A. arausiaca – appear on Appendix I of CITES, a proper international transfer would require the issuance of both a CITES export permit from Dominica and an import permit from Germany.

IFAW rescue teams helping to rebuild the aviary and create enrichment activities for the rehabilitating parrots in Dominica. (Photo: IFAW)

We urge close scrutiny of these documents given that, at the time of the transfer, Dominica was temporarily under a suspension of “All Trade” by the Convention (effective 30 January 2018) due to lack of reporting compliance with the Convention. This fact alone should have prevented the signing of both permits, and ultimately, the transfer itself.

Additionally, Dominica’s CITES Management and Scientific Authorities of record, the Environmental Coordinating Unit, and Forestry, Wildlife and Parks Division, respectively, were not contacted about the transfer and neither signed the CITES export permit. The export permit was signed and executed by an Acting Permanent Secretary. Finally, the “special conditions” section of the permit references an agreement between ACTP and the Government of Dominica, but the CITES Management and Scientific Authorities have no knowledge of any such agreement, and it was not included in the export documentation.

Given the lack of facilities in Dominica to carry out pre-export testing for select pathogens, we urge additional scrutiny of these aspects of the transfer to determine if either the European Union’s requirements or Germany’s requirements for quarantine and testing prior to shipment were adequately met. Naturally, bio-security threats go in both directions, and untested imported live birds have the potential to introduce dangerous pathogens to threatened species already held in captive collections in Europe.

In closing, we thank you for your decades of commitment to ensuring that wildlife trade does not further threaten the survival of Endangered Species, and respectfully urge the thorough investigation of all aspects of these recent actions. With appropriate steps, ideally these detrimental actions can be mitigated and reversed, and preventative measures can be taken to ensure that no such trafficking of rare species occurs under the auspices of the Convention.

The Sisserou, Dominica’s National Bird. The motto is: “Apres Bondie C’est La Ter” (After God is the Earth or in standard French “Apres le Bon Dieu C’est La Terre.”) The frog is the so-called “Mountain Chicken.”

Signatory Organizations

American Bird Conservancy
Birds Caribbean
City Parrots

Defenders of Wildlife
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
Echo Bonaire
NABU – Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union
Pro Wildlife e.V.
Rare Species Conservatory Foundation
Species Survival Network
World Parrot Trust

Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Erik Solheim speaks during a visit to Jamaica in November, 2016. (My photo)

EU DG Environment
Mr. Gael de Rotalier Team Leader – CITES and EU Wildlife Trade Policy
Ms Emmanuelle Maire – Multilateral environmental Cooperation
Mr. Jorge Rodriguez Romero – Multilateral Environmental Cooperation

Germany – Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and
Nuclear Safety
Ms. Svenja Schulze – Minister
Mr. Gerhard Adams – CITES Management Authority
Mr. Jochen Flasbarth – State Secretary

CITES Secretariat
Mr. John Scanlon – Secretary General
Mr. David Morgan – Chief, Governing Bodies and Meeting Services
Mr. Tom De Meulenaer – Chief, Scientific Services
Mr. Juan Carlos Vasquez – Chief, Legal Affairs & Compliance

CITES Standing Committee
Ms. Carolina Caceres, Chair

Mr. Roosevelt Skerrit – Prime Minister
Mr. Minchinton Burton – Director, Forestry, Wildlife and Parks Division
Dr. Reginald Thomas – Acting Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries

US Fish and Wildlife Service
Dr. Rosemary Gnam – U.S. Scientific Authority

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