[Federal Register Volume 59, Number 58 (Friday, March 25, 1994)]
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From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 94-7072]


[[Page Unknown]]

[Federal Register: March 25, 1994]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
 

Wild Bird Conservation Act (WBCA) of 1992; Decision Concerning 
Petition for Suspension of Imports of African Grey Parrots to the 
United States

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of a final decision on a petition.

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SUMMARY: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) received a 
petition from the Environmental Investigation Agency to suspend the 
import of African grey parrots from Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, and Benin to 
the United States under the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 (WBCA). 
The Service has reached a final decision on the petition and determines 
that sufficient information exists to suspend the importation of 
African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus and all subspecies) from Cote 
d'Ivoire, Togo, Benin, and Guinea. Information the Service has 
gathered, including the petition, supports the suspension of the import 
of African grey parrots under the WBCA, in the interest of conservation 
of the species. However, because a statutorily mandated moratorium on 
importation of this species became effective on October 23, 1993, 
except as allowed pursuant to regulations which the Service has 
promulgated, no additional prohibition on importation of this species 
is necessary. The Service notes however that it is required under the 
WBCA to issue and publish notice of the final decision reached on this 
petition. The Service will take into account its decision on this 
petition in reviewing any future applications for the importation of 
African grey parrots from Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, Benin, and Guinea to the 
United States under the WBCA.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Susan S. Lieberman, Office of 
Management Authority, at the above address, telephone (703) 358-2093.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On October 23, 1992, the Wild Bird 
Conservation Act (WBCA) of 1992 (16 U.S.C. 4901-4916) was signed into 
law. The purposes of the WBCA include promoting the conservation of 
exotic birds by: ensuring that all imports into the United States of 
species of exotic birds are biologically sustainable and not 
detrimental to the species; ensuring that imported birds are not 
subject to inhumane treatment; and assisting wild bird conservation and 
management programs in countries of origin.
    Pursuant to Section 105(b) of the WBCA (16 U.S.C. 4904), 
``Emergency Authority to Suspend Imports of Listed Species,'' the WBCA 
authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to suspend the importation of 
exotic birds of any species that is listed in any Appendix to the 
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora 
and Fauna (CITES, or Convention), if the Secretary determines that:
    (A)(i) Trade in that species is detrimental to the species,
    (ii) There is not sufficient information available on which to base 
a judgment that the species is not detrimentally affected by trade in 
that species, or
    (iii) Remedial measures have been recommended by the Standing 
Committee of the Convention that have not been implemented; and
    (B) The suspension might be necessary for the conservation of the 
species.''
    This final decision is based on various documents, including 
published and unpublished studies. Documents on which this final 
decision is based are on file in the Service's Office of Management 
Authority, and are available on request.
    On February 22, 1993, the Service received a letter from G. A. 
Punguse, Chief Game and Wildlife Officer for Ghana, requesting that the 
United States stop African grey parrot shipments from Togo to the 
United States and stating that no African grey parrot populations are 
found in Togo and that all of the birds exported from Togo are actually 
smuggled from Ghana.
    On April 12, 1993, the Environmental Investigation Agency submitted 
a petition to the Service requesting the Secretary to suspend imports 
of African grey parrots from Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, and Benin to the 
United States.
    On April 15, 1993, the Service received a letter from the CITES 
Secretariat in Switzerland noting that a CITES report (Dandliker, 1992) 
on the African grey parrot in Ghana indicates that the majority of the 
specimens that are exported from Cote d'Ivoire are in reality smuggled 
into Cote d'Ivoire from Ghana and other countries. The letter further 
noted that the Secretariat had corresponded with the Government of Cote 
d'Ivoire, expressed its concerns that large number of birds may have 
been smuggled from Ghana, and recommended that Cote d'Ivoire stop 
exports of African grey parrots until populations could be surveyed.
    At the eighth meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties in 
Kyoto, Japan, Resolution Conf. 8.9 was adopted. The Resolution, 
entitled ``The Trade in Wild-Caught Animal Specimens,'' established a 
process whereby the CITES Animals Committee would communicate primary 
and secondary recommendations to CITES Parties regarding species that 
had been identified as high-priority species. The African grey parrot 
is such a species. The resolution established a process whereby the 
CITES Secretariat would assess whether a Party had implemented specific 
recommendations; any failure to so demonstrate would be brought to the 
attention of the CITES Standing Committee. The Secretariat sent 
recommendations from the Animals Committee to several CITES Parties in 
June 1992; those that did not reply were sent reminders in October 1992 
and January 1993. Based on the report of the Secretariat to the March 
1993 meeting of the CITES Standing Committee in Washington, DC, the 
Standing Committee unanimously recommended to all Parties that imports 
be suspended for a number of species, including the African grey parrot 
from Guinea.
    On April 20, 1993, the CITES Secretariat issued Notification to the 
Parties No. 737, which notified the Parties of the Standing Committee's 
recommendation to suspend imports of Psittacus erithacus from Guinea.
    On May 7, 1993, the CITES Secretariat issued Notification to the 
Parties No. 746, which ``strongly recommended'' that Parties ``not 
accept any comparable documentation from Cote d'Ivoire for trade in 
specimens of African grey parrots (P. erithacus), including the 
subspecies P. e. erithacus and P. e. timneh.'' This recommendation 
remains in effect until the CITES Secretariat is satisfied that the 
government of Cote d'Ivoire has ``completed surveys on its wild 
populations of African grey parrots and based on those surveys, 
establishes a management plan for sustainable international trade; and 
has taken appropriate measures to prevent the illegal import of grey 
parrots from other countries, and to ensure that shipments of grey 
parrots that are exported from Cote d'Ivoire do not include birds that 
have been imported illegally.'' The Notification notes that a CITES 
report on the grey parrot in Ghana indicates that the majority of P. 
erithacus exported from Cote D'Ivoire are birds that are smuggled from 
Ghana and other countries.
    On August 25, 1993, the Service published a notice in the Federal 
Register (58 FR 44847) of receipt of the petition to suspend the import 
of African grey parrots from Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, and Benin to the 
United States under the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 (WBCA). That 
notice proposed suspension of imports of African grey parrots from 
those countries and Guinea, and invited public comments.
    On October 23, 1993, the importation of African grey parrots as 
well as all other CITES-listed bird species (with some exceptions) are 
prohibited, as provided by the WBCA, except as allowed pursuant to 
regulations which the Service has promulgated under the WBCA (see 58 FR 
60524). The Service notes however that it is required under the WBCA to 
issue and publish in the Federal Register a final action on the 
petition, by not later than 90 days after the end of the period for 
public comment. Since the statutorily mandated moratorium makes such a 
final action moot, and any action to suspend imports of African grey 
parrots from Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, and Benin to the United States would 
now be unnecessary, the Service instead hereby publishes its findings 
and decision, and a summary of public comments received on the 
petition.
    The African grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus) is a medium-sized 
parrot endemic to Africa. It is distributed in Central Africa from the 
Gulf of Guinea Islands and the west coast east to western Kenya and 
northwestern Tanzania; it possibly ranges to Mt. Kilimanjaro in 
Tanzania (Forshaw, 1989). They are primarily birds of lowland forests.
    There are three subspecies recognized: Psittacus e. erithacus, P. 
e. princeps, and P. e. timneh (Forshaw, 1989; Howard and Moore, 1991). 
The nominate subspecies, P. e. erithacus, is widespread in equatorial 
Africa. It ranges from southeastern Cote d'Ivoire to western Kenya and 
south to northern Angola, southern regions of Zaire and to northwestern 
Tanzania. P. e. princeps, which some authorities believe cannot be 
distinguished from the nominate subspecies, is restricted to the 
islands of Principe and Bioko in the Gulf of Guinea; while P. e. timneh 
is confined to southern Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and the 
westernmost parts of Cote d'Ivoire.
    The nominate subspecies, P. e. erithacus (``Redtail''), can be 
distinguished from P. e. timneh (``Maroontail'') by morphological 
characteristics. ``Red-tailed African grey parrots'' have an all-black 
bill and a bright red tail, whereas ``Maroon-tailed African grey 
parrots'' have a pale upper bill, a much darker maroon-red (often with 
a lot of dark-brown) tail, their general body color is darker, and on 
average, they are about 15% smaller in size than Red-tailed African 
grey parrots (Dandliker, 1992). Within the Red-tailed African grey 
parrots (P. e. erithacus), there exists a gradient in body size between 
western and eastern populations (Dandliker, 1992). Traders distinguish 
between the ``Ghanaian Redtails'' and the ``Congo or Cameroonian 
Redtails.'' ``Congo Red-tailed African grey parrots'' are larger and 
heavier than those from the western parts of the range.
    Although African grey parrots have long been popular in the pet 
bird trade, very little scientific data on the status, population 
sizes, and demography of wild populations exists. The trade in this 
species has long been an issue of concern. Between 1983 and 1989, 
346,782 African grey parrots were exported from 20 African countries, 
including two (Senegal and Togo) which are not believed to be range 
states (Environmental Investigation Agency 1993). In 1991, 10,651 
Psittacus erithacus and 3,976 P. e. timneh were imported into the 
United States. As of September 19, 1993, 7,821 Psittacus erithacus and 
2,158 P. e. timneh had been imported into the United States since 
enactment of the WBCA, under the quota established by the WBCA and 
published in the Federal Register (58 FR 19840).
    A CITES Report (Dandliker, 1992) estimated the total population of 
Red-tailed African grey parrots (P. e. erithacus) in West Africa to be 
between 40,000 and 100,000 birds. The largest population of Red-tailed 
African grey parrots occurs in Ghana, where the population is estimated 
to be between 30,000 and 80,000 birds (75%-80% of the total West 
African population) (Dandliker, 1992).
    Since 1980, Ghana has prohibited the export of its African grey 
parrots. This ban was found to be necessary by the Ghana Department of 
Game and Wildlife ``because of the large number of birds exported 
annually without scientific information to determine a sustainable off-
take which would ensure the survival of the species in the wild'' 
(Letter from G. Punguse, 1993). The recent CITES Secretariat-sponsored 
survey of African grey parrots in Ghana (Dandliker, 1992) concluded 
that the majority of the wild populations of Red-tailed African grey 
parrots are found in Ghana, with a few populations along the Cote 
d'Ivoire eastern boundary with Ghana and none in Togo. The CITES report 
(Dandliker, 1992) found that the majority of African grey parrots (P. 
e. erithacus) exported from Cote d'Ivoire are, in reality, birds that 
are smuggled into Cote d'Ivoire from Ghana, and all the African grey 
parrots exported from Togo come from Ghana.
    The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA, 1993) studied the 
illegal trade in African grey parrots from Ghana, at the request of the 
Ghanaian Government. Statements made by traders to EIA appear to 
substantiate the findings of the CITES Report concerning the illegal 
trade in African grey parrots from Cote d'Ivoire. Statements made by 
traders to EIA also point to illegal trade in African grey parrots from 
Benin, which originated in Ghana. After a review of the petition by the 
Environmental Investigation Agency, the aforementioned Notifications 
from the CITES Secretariat, the CITES Report (Dandliker, 1992), and 
information available from a recent law enforcement investigation, the 
Service concludes there was substantial scientific and commercial 
information that the suspension of imports of African grey parrots from 
Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, and Guinea, is warranted under the WBCA, and would 
have been imposed, had the statutorily mandated moratorium not been in 
effect. Information related to imports of African grey parrots from 
Benin was more limited but sufficient. In the Federal Register notice 
of August 25, 1993, the Service requested information from the public 
on exports or re-exports of African grey parrots from Benin. No such 
information was submitted. There is no information available on which 
to base a judgment that African grey parrot exports from Benin are not 
detrimental to the species. Information available to the Service 
indicated that in Ghana, although the African grey parrot is protected 
from export, it has been depleted by the ``laundering'' of smuggled 
birds through exports of the species from Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, and 
possibly Benin.
    Pursuant to section 105(b) of the WBCA (16 U.S.C. 4904), the 
Service finds that a suspension in the trade of African grey parrots 
from Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, Guinea, and Benin is necessary for the 
conservation of the species. The Service concludes that the trade in 
African grey parrots from Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, and Guinea is 
detrimental to the survival of the species in Ghana. The Service finds 
that there is not sufficient information available on which to base a 
judgment that the species in Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, Guinea, and Benin is 
not detrimentally affected by trade. The Service finds that in the case 
of Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire, remedial measures recommended by the 
Standing Committee of the Convention have not been implemented. The 
only reason the Service is not now imposing this moratorium as proposed 
in its notice of August 25, 1993, is the fact that the moratorium is 
already in place, pursuant to the WBCA and regulations in 50 CFR part 
15.

Comments and Other Information Received

    Comments on the proposed decision on the petition were received 
from five interested persons and organizations. Specifically, written 
comments were received from two individuals, one importer, one 
avicultural organization, and one pet industry representative.
    No comments were received which provided the Service with 
additional scientific information on the status of African grey parrots 
in Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, Benin, or Guinea. In making this final decision 
the Service depended on the information provided with the petition and, 
most importantly, the CITES Secretariat, including recent reports. 
Since the notice of receipt of the petition and proposed action was 
published in the Federal Register, a recent law enforcement 
investigation has further substantiated information contained in the 
CITES Secretariat-sponsored survey of African grey parrots in Ghana, 
that African grey parrots are smuggled to Cote d'Ivoire from other 
African countries.
    Three commenters stated that they were concerned about the timing 
of the petition, in light of the statutorily mandated moratorium that 
became effective on October 23, 1993. The Service agrees that the 
importation of African grey parrots as well as all other CITES-listed 
bird species (with some exceptions) are prohibited, except as allowed 
pursuant to regulations that the Service has promulgated under the WBCA 
(see 58 FR 60524). The Service notes however that it is required under 
the WBCA to issue and publish in the Federal Register a final 
determination on the petition, by not later than 90 days after the end 
of the period for public comment. Therefore, the Service is making a 
final decision on this petition; no further action is promulgated only 
because the statutorily mandated moratorium makes any such action moot.
    One commenter believed that any blanket cessation of importation 
which might affect cooperative breeding programs would be ill-advised 
and contradictory to the intent of the Wild Bird Conservation Act. The 
Service disagrees that the cessation of importation of particular 
species from certain countries is contrary to the intent of the WBCA, 
if it is in the interest of the conservation of the species. The WBCA 
allows the Secretary to establish, modify, or terminate any 
prohibition, suspension, or quota on importation of any species of 
exotic bird where it is determined that the trade in such species is 
detrimental to the species' survival in the wild. Furthermore, the 
suspension of imports of a species from one or more countries does not 
impact on a person's ability to apply for approval of a cooperative 
breeding program for that species.
    One commenter, although not necessarily in disagreement with the 
proposed action by the Service, questioned whether the petition 
warranted the type of emergency relief sought in the petition in light 
of the tremendous pressure the Service was under to promulgate 
regulations for the WBCA and staffing problems. The Service notes that 
the action proposed in the notice of August 25, 1993, did not 
constitute emergency relief, but rather constituted compliance with the 
petition review process outlined in the statute. The Service does 
appreciate the public's concern that promulgation of regulations 
implementing the WBCA is a resource-intensive endeavor.
    One commenter questioned the appropriateness of relying upon 
petitions supported by incomplete documents. The Service notes that its 
finding is based on various documents, including published and 
unpublished studies and law enforcement investigations. The commenter 
noted that part of the petition submitted by the Environmental 
Investigation Agency had some names blacked out. Those omissions were 
by the petitioner, and in no way affected the Service's findings. The 
Service gathered documents during its review of the petition; these 
included the recent CITES Secretariat-sponsored survey of African grey 
parrots in Ghana (Dandliker, 1992), CITES Notifications to the Parties, 
and information from recent law enforcement investigations.
    One commenter supported the suspension of African grey parrots from 
Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, and Benin to the United States, but asked that the 
Republic of Niger and other range States of African grey parrots be 
included. The commenter had lived in Niger and frequently observed the 
parrot in its natural habitat in Niger. The commenter expressed concern 
because Niger shares a border with Benin. Although the Service is 
concerned with the status of African grey parrots throughout its range, 
the Service does not have scientific or law enforcement information 
available to it to assess the status of African grey parrots in Niger 
to make the relevant findings. Furthermore, since Niger was not 
included in the Federal Register notice of August 25, 1993 that called 
for public comments, the Service does not consider it appropriate to 
add it in at this time. Should such information become available on 
Niger, or any other country, the Service will review it and include it 
in its record of information on the African grey parrot.
    One commenter questioned the allegations of smuggling in the 
petition and the supporting information for such allegations. The 
Service finds that there is sufficient supporting information to 
document smuggling activities involving African grey parrots. The 
recent CITES Secretariat-sponsored survey of African grey parrots in 
Ghana (Dandliker, 1992) showed that the majority of African grey 
parrots (P. e. erithacus) exported from Cote d'Ivoire are, in reality, 
birds that are smuggled into Cote d'Ivoire from Ghana, and it showed 
that all the African grey parrots exported from Togo likely come from 
Ghana. As an example of serious law enforcement problems regarding the 
African grey parrot, a recent law enforcement investigation resulted in 
a California bird importer pleading guilty to conspiring to smuggle 
African grey parrots into the United States. The importer conspired to 
import approximately 1,478 ``Congo'' African grey parrots which had 
been illegally taken from their wild habitat in Zaire, where the 
commercial trade in African grey parrots was banned. The parrots were 
smuggled from Zaire to Senegal, where the exporters obtained false 
CITES export documents to accompany the shipments to the United States. 
The CITES export documents falsely stated that the parrots originated 
in Guinea or Cote d'Ivoire, countries where the ``Congo'' African grey 
parrot does not occur.
    One commenter disagreed with the proposed action, stating that the 
suspension was not warranted, and that African grey parrots should be 
allowed to be imported into the United States from Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, 
and Benin. The Service disagrees, based on the aforementioned 
discussion. At any rate, this suspension is now in effect independent 
of this petition process.
    One commenter questioned if the suspension would affect the import 
of ``Timneh'' African grey parrots (Psittacus e. timneh) from Cote 
d'Ivoire. This ruling would have affected the importation of all 
subspecies of African grey parrots from Cote d'Ivoire, including 
Psittacus e. timneh.
    One commenter questioned if the suspension would have affected the 
import of captive-bred African grey parrots. The statutorily imposed 
suspension on the import of all CITES-listed birds makes that question 
moot, as it includes all African grey parrots. The Service will shortly 
propose regulations pursuant to Section 107 of the WBCA, which will 
allow for approval of foreign facilities breeding exotic birds in 
captivity. If a foreign facility is approved as a qualifying facility, 
species of exotic birds for which the facility is approved can be 
imported into the United States from that facility. When those 
regulations are finalized, any foreign facility breeding an otherwise 
prohibited species, including the African grey parrot, may apply to the 
Service for approval, based on the application and issuance 
requirements of the relevant regulations. However, if imports from a 
given country are specifically prohibited, based on a petition 
submitted pursuant to the WBCA, the Service would consider it very 
difficult for a facility in that country to qualify as an approved 
breeding facility.

References Cited

Dandliker, G. 1992. The grey parrot in Ghana: A population survey, a 
contribution to the biology of the species, a study of its 
commercial exploitation and management recommendations. A report on 
CITES Project S-30 to the CITES Secretariat. 132 pp.
Environmental Investigation Agency. 1993. Investigation into the 
trade in African grey parrots from Ghana. 146 pp. London, Great 
Britain.
Forshaw, J. 1989. Parrots of the World. 3rd (revised) edition. 
Lansdowne Editions, Melbourne, Australia.
Howard, R. and A. Moore. 1991. A Complete Checklist of the Birds of 
the World. 2nd edition. Academic Press Ltd., London, England.
CITES Secretariat Notification to the Parties No. 737. Lausanne, 20 
April 1993. Significant Trade in Animal Species included in Appendix 
II: Recommendations of the Standing Committee.
CITES Secretariat Notification to the Parties No. 746. Lausanne, 7 
May 1993. Cote d'Ivoire: Trade in African grey parrots.

Authors

    The authors of this notice are Dr. Rosemarie Gnam (Division of Law 
Enforcement) and Dr. Susan S. Lieberman (Office of Management 
Authority), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C. 20240 
(703/358-2093).

[Final ruling on petition: Wild Bird Conservation Act (WBCA) of 
1992; Final decision on petition to suspend imports of African grey 
parrots into the United States from certain countries]

    Dated: December 23, 1993.
Richard N. Smith,
Deputy Director.
[FR Doc. 94-7072 Filed 3-24-94; 8:45 am]
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