Cockatoos Get Protection to Curb Illegal Pet Trade

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Three species of cockatoos have received final listing status under the Endangered Species Act, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Philippine cockatoo and the yellow-crested cockatoo are listed as endangered, while the white cockatoo is listed as threatened.
     Because the white cockatoo is listed as threatened, the USFWS has also issued a special rule for that species under the ESA to allow import, export and interstate commerce of the birds without a permit if they are captive-bred or already in captivity at the time of listing, as long as those activities were in compliance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Wild Bird Conservation Act, according to the agency’s press release. The ESA’s special rule clause is not applicable to species listed as endangered.
     The Friends of Animals (FOA) petitioned the USFWS to list the cockatoos and 11 other parrot species in 2008. In 2010, the FOA and the WildEarth Guardians sued the agency for failure to issue a 12-month finding on the petition. A 2010 settlement agreement outlined a timetable for determining listing status for the species and the three cockatoos were proposed for listing in August 2011, according to the action.
     The FOA hailed the proposal as “a big step towards the end of the global trade in birds,” in its press release response. “Endangered Species Act protection is key for foreign species taken from their homes for the pet trade,” Taylor Jones, Endangered Species Advocate for WildEarth Guardians said in the FOA statement. “Demand for these attractive, intelligent, and vocal birds in countries including the U.S. drives poaching in their home ranges.”
     The yellow-crested cockatoo population has declined to less than 6000 birds in Indonesia and Timor-Leste and the species has continued to decline despite conservation measures. The Philippine cockatoo population may only have 450 to 1,245 individuals in the wild, and its population declined 60 to 90 percent between 1980 and 2000. The white cockatoo population is estimated to be between 8,000 and 48,000 in the wild, according to the agency’s fact sheet.
     Cockatoos are members of the parrot family. They have “erectile” crests, and they lack the blue and green coloring in their plumage that other parrots have. They are only found in Australasia, “a few archipelagos in Southeast Asia (Bismarck, East Timor, Indonesia, Philippines, Tanimbar, and Solomon), New Guinea and Australia, the listing noted.
     While trapping the birds for the illegal pet trade is the most significant threat to the birds, they also face threats from habitat loss due to mining, conversion of habitat to plantations or agriculture, and logging. Up to 75 percent of logging in Indonesia is illegal, the action said.
     The birds are long-lived and monogamous. They do not begin breeding until they are at least six years old. On some islands, all the nestlings are poached in a breeding season, which disrupts the birds’ ability to renew the population. Attempts to end the illegal trade are hampered by Indonesia’s large coastline, and fact that officials have limited resources and knowledge, according to the listing.
     The listing is effective July 24.

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