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Flying into extinction: Understanding the role of Singapore’s international parrot trade in growing domestic demand



South-East Asia’s bird trade is of global conservation concern as it has massively depleted wild populations of many species. Parrots (Order Psittaciformes) are especially vulnerable because they are the most heavily traded group of birds globally under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) appendices. Singapore’s involvement in the global pet bird trade as a transhipment hub is well documented, particularly for parrots. Yet, much less is known about the links between its domestic and international trade. We attempt to quantify this relationship by comparing bird trade data on the CITES database with past market surveys of pet shops, complemented with semi-structured interviews with 30 parrot owners in Singapore. We report a decline in total imports and exports of CITES-listed birds in Singapore from 2005 to 2016, consistent with global trends after the European Union trade ban on wild bird imports. However, parrots continue to make up the majority of total imports; and there was a yearly increase in the percentage of parrot imports out of total imports. In addition, we report a difference in imports and exports of 54,207 CITES I, II and III listed birds into Singapore i.e. birds imported but not re-exported. A substantial proportion of these birds were possibly channelled into the domestic pet trade or used as breeding stock. Interviews with parrot owners confirmed the growing demand and popularity of parrots and particularly of larger species. We conclude that the domestic demand for parrots may have been previously underestimated, and make recommendations to manage Singapore’s international and domestic pet bird trade such as implementing a licensing and records system to track the movement of birds.


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