PARROT Case

Parrot Trade (PARROT)



          CASE NUMBER:          96 
          CASE MNEMONIC:      PARROT
          CASE NAME:          Parrot Trade

A.        IDENTIFICATION
1.        The  Issue
     Every year, approximately 250,000 parrots are imported to the
United States to satisfy a demand for exotic birds as pets.  An
estimated 25,000 wild parrots, caught or plucked from their nests
in Mexico, are smuggled across the Texas border each year. 
Moreover, an additional 25,000 parrots die of suffocation,
starvation, or inhumane treatment while being transported to the
Texas border.  The Wild Bird Conservation Act passed by Congress in
1992 virtually eliminates trade in South American parrots and
Mexico has outlawed the export of its parrots.  Smuggling of
parrots across the Texas border, however, is very difficult to
enforce due to the lucrative profits awaiting the smugglers.
2.        Description
     Neotropical parrots have become one of the most threatened
groups of birds in the world, primarily because of international
trade and habitat destruction.  At least 30 percent of the 140
parrot species found in the Western Hemisphere are now threatened
with extinction.  Recent figures suggest that 40 percent of these
species are threatened primarily by habitat destruction, 17 percent
primarily by trade, 36 percent by a combination of the two causes
and 7 percent by other factors.  Furthermore, populations of most
of the 98 parrot species that are not considered threatened are
currently thought to be declining.   
     It is thought that two million parrots alone are legally or
illegally traded each year.  More than 1.8 million parrots legally
entered the international trade from 1982-1988 of which 80 percent
were imported into the United States.  More than 90 percent of the
parrots imported into the United States are probably wild caught. 
Demand for pet birds in the United States has exploded in recent
years and with growth in demand has come a shift in preference to
the more exotic and spectacular species of parrots.  According to
TRAFFIC, a World Wildlife Fund trade monitoring unit, the annual
retail turnover in parrots, both imported and captive bred, in the
United States is estimated at $300 million.
     Traffic in exotic birds has been a problem for decades along
the border between Mexico and the United States (see BIRDS case).   
Parrots can come into the United States from all Latin American 
countries, but they mainly come from the wilds of Mexico.  Officials 
say that every year some 25,000 parrots are smuggled across the Rio 
Grande into the United States.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has 
reported that in Texas, alone, an estimated $40 million worth of parrots 
annually flow into a black market that distributes them nationwide.  It is
estimated that 25,000 parrots die of suffocation, starvation, or
inhumane treatment in attempts to bring the birds into the United
States.
     The smuggler's techniques are especially cruel.  First,
thousands and thousands of baby birds are taken out of their nests. 
Young parrots are particularly at risk because they have
pinfeathers that hold blood.  If they are not handled correctly,
they can even bleed to death.  In the transportation of the birds
to the United States:  people sometimes swim the birds across the
Rio Grande floating the cages on inner tubes, birds are taped
inside hubcaps and drugged beforehand so they can stand the motion
of the car as it makes the bumpy trip across the border, or
smugglers give the parrots tequila and stick them in the hubcaps,
also they are sometimes stuffed beneath women's clothing with their
beaks taped close.  Smugglers with larger operations usually stuff
the parrots into wooden crates, hiding them among other cargos in
large trucks without air conditioning.
     Smuggling parrots in from Mexico is the second-largest illegal
border business next to drug smuggling.  A special agent for the
Fish and Wildlife Service half-jokingly stated, "I'd tell someone
not to go into drugs.  Go into bird smuggling.  It is a much safer,
you probably will not get caught and the profit margins are
comparable to those in drugs too.  Parrots that cost $15 apiece in
Mexico garner $250 to $1,500 in the United States and some are sold
as high as $10,000 at flea markets and pet stores.
     The principal reasons that parrot smuggling has been so
difficult to curtail is because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
is underfunded and understaffed.  For example, only two agents are
expected to patrol the entire Texas-Mexico border.  Another reason
is that prosecuting violators is difficult because judges and
prosecutors have to be convinced to give the extra effort as courts
and jails in the United States are filled with accused or convicted
felons.
     There are several existing laws and agreements that have
sought to regulate the import and export of parrots.  The
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild
Fauna and Flora (CITES), which regulates the importation of
endangered species is perhaps the most significant protection for
parrots.  CITES carefully regulates the importation of  332 of the
335 species in the Psittaciformes (parrot) order.  The remaining
three species are commonly bred in captivity (see THAIBIRD case).
     Mexico outlawed the export of its parrots because of its
dwindling bird population.  The World Wildlife Fund states that two
of Mexico's parrots are in danger of extinction: two in particular
were noted, the Mexican red headed amazon and the yellow headed
amazon.
     The United States passed the Wild Bird Conservation Act in
1992 that immediately banned the import of ten threatened species,
including the red headed and yellow headed amazon.  In October
1993, the act was expanded to include all birds on the CITES list. 
Though this law, like the two above, does not directly address the
problem of smuggling which is especially prevalent at the
Texas-Mexico border, conservationists in the United States
speculate that smuggling might increase at first; but will probably
drop off since there will be fewer legal birds to provide cover.
     There are two alternative measures that could be taken to help
alleviate the threatened status of parrots but there are problems
with both approaches.  First, parrots could be bred in captivity. 
The problem, however, is that while many threatened breeds of
parrots such as the scarlet macaws and the Amazon parrots such as
the double yellow heads, yellow heads, Mexican redheads, and yellow
nape can thrive in the wilds of Mexico, they are hard to breed in
captivity.
     The second method is sustainable development.  It is unlikely,
however, that parrots can be sustainable harvested if large numbers
of birds are being legally harvested in an  unsustainable manner. 
Unless laws can protect from over harvesting, or enforcement
efforts making smuggling parrots much more difficult and costly. 
Taking birds from the wild in an unsustainable manner will always
be cheaper and easier and sell them through legal or illegal
channels than to harvest them sustainably.
3.        Related Cases
     Keyword Clusters
     (1): Trade Product            =    BIRD
     (2): Bio-geography            =    TEMPerate
     (3): Environmental Problem    =    Species Loss Air [SPLA]
4.        Draft Author:  Dawn Lanette Mumford 
B.        LEGAL Clusters
5.        Discourse and Status: AGReement  
     The general discourse for smuggling parrots across the
U.S.-Mexican border is one of disagreement.  Though smuggling of
parrots is illegal in the United States and Mexico, there is no
negotiated agreement that specifically addresses smuggling.  The
stage of this case would be a one. 
6.        Forum and Scope: REGION and MULTIlateral
     There are several laws/agreements that seek to reduce or end
the import/export of parrots: CITES includes provisions that
regulate the importation of 332 of 335 parrot species.  The Scope
of CITES would be a four as this convention has more than 130
signatories.  The 1992 Wild Bird Conservation Act was passed by the
United States Congress to regulate imports of exotic birds.  This
legislation did not directly address the smuggling of birds into
the United States.  The scope of the Wild Bird Conservation Act is
1.  In addition, Mexico outlawed the export of its parrots because
of its dwindling bird population, but again, this legislation does
not address the illegal smuggling of birds (see MIGRATE case).
7.        Decision Breadth:  CITES (130+ signatories) 
     This case also includes the Wild Bird Conservation Act and
Mexican Law.
8.        Legal Standing:  TREATY
C.        GEOGRAPHIC Cluster
9.        Geographic Locations
     a.   Geographic Domain:  Central AMERica
     b.   Geographic Site:    MEXICO
     c.   Geographic Impact:  MEXICO
10.       Sub-National Factors:  YES
     New York state has banned the trade of wild-caught birds. 
11.       Type of Habitat:  TROPical 
     The parrot habitat type is tropical forests.  The birds nest
high in these trees. 
D.        TRADE Clusters 
12.       Type of Measure:  Import Ban [IMBAN]
13.       Direct vs Indirect Impacts:  DIRect
14.       Relation of Measure to Environmental Impact 
     a. Directly Related      : YES BIRD
     b. Indirectly Related    : NO
     c. Not Related           : NO  
     d. Process Related       : YES Species Loss Air [SPLA]
15.       Trade Product Identification:  Parrots 
16.       Economic Data
     In Texas alone, an estimated $40 million worth of parrots
annually flow into a black market that distributes them nationwide. 
Parrots that cost $15 apiece in Mexico fetch $250 to $1500 in the
United States, and some sell for as high as $10,000 at flea markets
and pet stores.  The price rises as birds ascend the chain of
intermediaries and dealers.  According to TRAFFIC, a trapper who
takes a macaw in Mexico may get 50 cents, a middleman may get $10,
an exporter $50, and the bird will sell here for $2,000.  For
independent smugglers who capture the parrots themselves the profit
is higher because all the middlemen in Mexico are avoided. 
According to TRAFFIC, the annual retail turnover in parrots, both
imported and captive-bred is estimated at $300 million. 
17.       Impact of Measure Trade Competitiveness: MEDium 
     As the number of legal exports of parrots is increasingly
reduced through the above agreements, there will be a greater
dependence on smuggled parrots to satisfy demand in the United
States.  As the supply of parrots decrease, the price for these
birds will increase as will the profit motive for smuggling. 
18.       Industry Sector:  PET
19.       Exporters and Importers: MEXICO and USA 
     More than 1.8 million parrots legally entered the
international trade from 1982 to 1988, with 80 percent of these
parrots being imported into the United States.  In the Western
Hemisphere, parrots come from all of Latin America, but mainly from
the wilds of Mexico. 
E.        Environment Clusters 
20.       Environmental Problem Type: Species Loss Area [SPLA]
21.       Name, Type, and Diversity of Species:  
     Name:          MANY
     Type:          MANY
     Diversity:     xxx birds species per 10,000 km/sq (Mexico)
     There are 335 species in the Psittaciformes order. 
22.       Resource Impact and Effect:  MEDium
     Of the 140 parrot species found in the Western Hemisphere, 30
percent are now threatened with extinction.  Of the 98 parrot
species that are not considered threatened are currently thought to
be declining. 
23.       Urgency and Lifetimes: HIGH and 5-10 years
     The problem for the 30 percent of parrots threatened with
extinction is very urgent.  For example, there are fewer than 5,000
hyacinth macaws that remain in the wild in South America, down from
an estimated 100,000 in 1950. 
24.       Substitute: LIKE products
     There are two types of substitution.  First, is sustainable
harvesting whereby nesting boxes are provided for parrot
populations in their indigenous habitat.  Excess birds would be
harvested to meet demands for imports.  It is unlikely though that
parrots can be sustainably harvested if large numbers of birds are
being legally harvested in an unsustainable manner. Second, is
captive breeding programs undertaken primarily in the developed
countries.  Many of the parrot breeds including the scarlet macaws,
double yellow-heads, yellow-heads, Mexican redheads, and
yellow-napes thrive in the wilds of Mexico but are hard to breed in
captivity. 
25.       Culture: YES
     There is a huge cultural factor involved in the smuggling and
importing of parrots.  In the United States, especially, the demand
for parrots is very high because these birds are status symbols
and/or fit well with smaller dwellings and more active lifestyles. 
For the peasants and smugglers who confiscate the parrots from the
wild, adverse economic conditions in Mexico make this practice hard
to refuse from the revenue standpoint. 
26.       Trans-border: NO
27.       Human Rights: NO
28.       Relevant Literature 
Associated Press.  "Smuggling a Threat to Parrots: Illegal
     Border Business Second Only to Drug Trade."  The Houston
     Post.  July 24, 1989, 10 (A). 
Bergman, Charles A. "The Bust," Audubon. (May, 1991): 68-76. 
Beissinger, Steven R. and Enrique H. Bucher.  "Can Parrots Be
     Conserved Through Sustainable Harvesting?"  BioScience 42
     (March, 1992): 164-173. 
Dold, Catherine.  "Exotic Birds, at Risk in Wild, May be Banned
     as Imports to U.S."  New York Times.  October 20, 1992,
     4 (C). 
Jackson, Donald Dale.  "Pursued in the Wild for the Pet Trade,
     Parrots are Perched on a Risky Limb."  The Smithsonian 
     16 (April, 1986): 59-67. 
Kansas, David.  "Restricting Bird Imports Gets a Fledgling
     Start."  Wall Street Journal.  March 23, 1993, 1 (B). 
Nusser, Nancy.  "Caging the Bird Thieves."  The Atlanta Journal
     and Constitution.  December 15, 1991, 6 (A). 
"Parrots Trade Branches for Ranches."  Environment 34
     (May, 1992): 21. 
"These Parrots Are Not Dead."  The Economist 314
     (March 17, 1990): 83. 
West, Dana Lauren.  "U.S. Importation of Exotic Birds."
     BioScience 41 (May, 1991): 300. 

                     

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