OPA CITES Report
The OPA sent David Garcia as a U.S.-based observer to CITES CoP19 held in Panama City, Panama from November 13-25. This CoP did not focus much on bird-related issues but did raise some concerns for upcoming CoPs.
On bird matters, four bird species were included in the amendments to the appendices. Although only two were of avicultural interest.
Of non-avicultural interest. The U.S. proposed to downlist the Aleutian Cackling Goose and the Short-Tailed Albatross from Appendix I to Appendix II. Both these species were initially included in Appendix I in 1975. At the time, both species had been brought almost to extinction due to hunting. The U.S. proposed to downlist them due to both species having rebounded since 1975. Both these proposals sailed through without much discussion other than highlighting the conservation successes of the U.S.
Of avicultural interest. The White-Rumped Shama (Copsychus malabaricus) was proposed to be included in Appendix II by Malaysia and Singapore. It was reported that the Shama was traded heavily, with 30,000 birds confiscated in 2022, and with local extirpations occurring. However, the data presented showed that most of the trade was in SE Asia and domestic. The reports for example only found 29 birds for sale in Europe. Singapore claimed that listing was necessary because the species was poorly studied and because SE Asia was failing to enforce their laws. They also claimed that wild Shamas are preferred due to their improved song quality. The Shama was ultimately included in Appx II with little argument. Thailand and Indonesia emphasized that they had large captive breeding operations, but otherwise did not oppose the listing. The listing will go into effect in 12 months.
NOTE, due to the Wild Bird Conservation Act, in the U.S., this means that Shamas will no longer be permitted for import to the U.S., at least for the foreseeable future. As such, U.S. breeders should take care to preserve their birds and create studbooks to manage their existing captive population, otherwise, this species will be lost to U.S. aviculture.
The other bird of avicultural interest was the Straw-Headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus) which was proposed to be included in Appendix I. This bird has declined steadily in Asia due to demand from the songbird trade. Singapore stated that the only remaining viable population was approximately 500 individuals located in the wild areas of Singapore. Again, the point was raised that wild-caught birds are believed to be of better singing quality. This proposal was widely supported with the principal opponent being Indonesia. Indonesia highlighted that there are 300 registered breeders of this species in Indonesia producing over 1000 birds per year. Indonesia was concerned that an Appx I listing would lead to greater poaching and reduce the number of birds produced captive-bred due to increased regulatory demands. Ultimately, the Straw-Headed Bulbul was included in Appendix I, with a 12-month delay, by consensus.
While this species was already included in Appendix II and barred from import into the United States. Due to the up-listing, it is highly recommended that any U.S. breeders of the Straw-Headed Bulbuls rigorously document their acquisitions and sale of any specimens of this species, and preserve any such documents they already have.
The declines of both the Straw-Headed Bulbul and White-Rumped Shama were blamed on the captive bird trade. And several animal rights groups raised the claim that captive breeding operations would be used to launder wild-caught birds.
Other issues. The U.S. has provided funding for a study of the wild-caught trade of songbirds from Latin America. As a result, it is expected that in the coming years we will see future listings on the Appendices of species such as Tanagers. The OPA recommends that breeders of such species begin serious efforts to establish such species in U.S. aviculture before the importation of wild specimens ends.
Concerning trends. A concerning trend at this CoP was the continuing dismissal of science. Many listings did not meet the biological criteria for listing but were included in the Appendices under the so-called "precautionary principle." Many of these listings were opposed by groups such as the UN FAO, but concerns about the lack of basis for listing species were generally ignored by parties. Additionally, there is a growing trend towards listing entire Genera or Family which is quite concerning. This is best exemplified by the listing of Glass Frogs. Although the Family is widespread and common, it was decided to list the entire Family Centrolenidae which ranges from Central America to Argentina on Appx II. While there was some opposition to this approach, it was ultimately ignored. Going forward this may be the preferred approach for future CoPs.
Collaborations. The OPA continued its collaboration with PASA and other South African sustainable use organizations. The OPA also assisted NAIA delegate Art Parola in preparing his interventions in opposition to listing the Timber Rattle Snake and Soft-shelled Turtles.