Birds of Eden African Grey Project in Plett 

African Grey Parrot
Published: March 10th, 2021

Birds of Eden African Grey Project in Plettenberg Bay

Our aim at SAASA and Birds of Eden in Plett is to find a decent solution for the washouts of the African Grey Parrot pet industry in South Africa, and specifically to find a new home for ex-pet African Grey Parrots.

African Greys parrots are amongst the world’s most popular avian pets but also the world’s most traded parrot. Trapping for the pet trade together with habitat destruction has had extremely severe consequences for the wild African Grey populations to such extent that these parrots have virtually been eliminated from the wild.

While greys have disappeared from their natural range, South Africa has developed the largest grey parrot breeding industry in the world. Today, 8 out of 10 captive-bred African Greys parrots sold globally come from South Africa with a demand for export, according to the parrot breeders, as high as 100 000 birds each year. Now just imagine how many Grey parrots are caught up in the pet trade on home soil in this same country that breeds and exports a hundred thousand Grey parrots a year. 

The real ugly and heartbreaking side of this pet industry is the Greys confined to a small cage for the rest of their long lives; African Grey parrots can live for 40-60 years in captivity. 

African Grey Parrot

Many of these parrots eventually end up as unwanted pets due to different reasons; elderly people who took on a parrot in their younger years find themselves moving into smaller homes or retirement villages where these parrots are no longer welcome or even elderly people passing away leaving parrots behind, people emigrating from South Africa not able to take these birds with them and then the people who come to realise how unfair it is to confine a single parrot to a cage.

These are the people who contact Birds of Eden Bird Sanctuary in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa with the question: “Can you take my African Grey parrot and give it a better life where it can fly and be with others of the same kind?”

To date, Birds of Eden have taken in 61 African Greys and 10 Timney Grey parrots from 2019 – present.

THE HEART OF THE AFRICAN GREY PROBLEM

  1. The African Grey was listed on Appendix II of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) to ensure that international trade in this species does not threaten their survival). This means NO international trade except if not for commercial purposes. Trade cannot take place in wild specimens and international trade can only take place of captive bred species if breeders are registered with CITES Secretariat.
  • The African Grey is listed as one of the world’s most trafficked birds, and it is recognised as the world’s most trafficked parrot.
  • The African Grey is virtually extinct in Guinea, Rwanda, and Burundi.
  • South Africa is home to the largest African Grey parrot breeding industry in the world. 8 of 10 African Greys traded globally are bred in SA.
  • Of the 1630 countrywide parrot breeders under the SA Parrot Breeders Association [link to  https://www.aviculturesa.co.za/] (not just breeders of African Greys), 156 have registered to date with the CITES Secretariat as African Grey Breeders for export.
  • The SA Parrot Breeders Association says their members produce 67 000 chicks a year, 183 chicks daily and there is a demand for 100 000 to be exported. That is almost 7 000 birds dumped into the local pet industry yearly.
  • Since 1998, SA has exported more captive bred Greys annually than the rest of world combined.

FACTS ABOUT THE AFRICAN GREY PARROT

  • Experts say the African Grey parrot is so smart that it can perform cognitive tasks at the level of human toddlers, which is one of the properties that makes them so attractive as pets, as well as their ability to mimic the human voice.
  • The majority of the African Grey and other parrots are kept alone in cages whereas in the wild they are social birds – hard-coded to seek the comfort and security of their peers, roosting in groups, and flying in large flocks.
  • Many pet African Grey parrots end up unwanted, misunderstood and socially maladjusted – often given away to friends, relatives or rescue centres or back to breeders.
  • A South African Grey parrot lives for 40-60 years in captivity, which is something many prospective owners don’t fully comprehend.
  • Weekly, sometimes twice weekly requests are received by Birds of Eden for taking in single, two or even three African Grey parrots at a time from owners looking to find a solution for their pets.

THE SOLUTION

The best and most immediate solution is to build a very large, landscaped enclosure dedicated specifically for African Grey Parrots, outside of the Birds of Eden Birds Sanctuary, where these ex-pet birds will enjoy the company of other Greys and have the ability to fly in a safe protected environment. 

This is where Birds of Eden requires assistance from everyone with a heart and feeling for victims of the pet parrot industry. Birds of Eden hope to raise R600,000 to build a new enclosure that is approximately 30m x 30m x 4,4m high. Once the funding is procured, they will start a campaign to lobby, influence legislation and educate the public about the exploitation of the African Grey parrot.  

Enough funds have been raised to build the first aviary dedicated to the African Grey, however additional funds are needed as each aviary can only accommodate 80 parrots.

The current African Grey Aviary free-flight enclosure is constructed with a multi-span metal structure (similar to a hot house shape with domes) to withstand chewing by the parrots a concrete perimeter foundation to secure metal upright posts, stop burrowing predators and in order to secure welded mesh fencing and covered sheltered areas. The aviary also includes an introduction/adjustment cage for new arrivals.

The birds will be under the care of Birds of Eden/South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance (SAASA) for the remainder of their lives. This is not intended as a breeding project and birds will never be traded again.

To learn more about this special project, contact Lara on lara@saasa.org.za or info@birdsofeden.co.za or call 082 979 5683.