Opinion - On the conservation of cages - By Dr. Carlos B. de Araújo

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Opinion - On the conservation of cages - By Dr. Carlos B. de Araújo

Postby Carlos » Tue Apr 26, 2016 11:32 am

Opinion article

On the conservation of cages
By Dr. Carlos B. de Araújo

In 1975 Brazil joined the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). At the time it was very common to see captive birds in Brazil, but somehow things changed and Brazil became an international environmental leader. As said by the German-Brazilian Ornithologist Helmut Sick in the 80’s “For several years now, a strong sense of responsibility has made Brazilian authorities feel that the maximum must be done for the conservation of nature”. There was also a big cultural change over this period, and keeping birds in cages was not as acceptable as it was before, immediately reducing the pressure on wild populations. With less people willing to raise captive birds, the number of animals captured in the wild also reduced. However, the straightforward relation between market size and wildlife harvesting has not lead to the prohibition of all bird confinement in Brazil, but why? There are actually a couple of arguments for maintaining birds in confinement, and in this essay I intend to show how misleading these arguments may be.

For sure, there are many excellent examples on how captive stocks may be used for wild population numbers and genetic reinforcement. But if a direct link to conservation management programs is not made, bird confinement is of little help. This point will be made clearer after the species concepts and the objectives of conservation are better explored. As defined by Ernst Mayr (1): species are groups of interbreeding natural populations that are reproductively isolated from other such groups. A group of interbreeding animals may indeed be kept isolated from others in captivity, making the comparison with Noah’s ark inevitable. However, an ecosystem is far from being a random subset of species, making unlikely to a random subset of species being capable to reestablish an original ecosystem. The amount of carbon cycle depends, for example, on the amount of plants fixing it so that differences in producer-consumer ratio within an ecosystem would indubitably alter carbon balance. The interplay between biological processes such as predation, competition, pollination, seed dispersal, herbivory (among others) is actually what governs ecosystem dynamics, and these ecological interactions are key to attaining a balanced ecological environment such as proposed by the conservation agenda.

The Brazilian constitution mentions in Article 225 that “Everyone has the right to an ecologically balanced environment of common use”. Brazil constitutionally focuses its conservation efforts within the environment, so that an environmental definition of species would work best. Such definition should go beyond the biological concept while incorporating ecological interactions. As outlined by Van Valen a species may be ecologically defined as how it uses its resources and how this use has evolved throughout time. Looking through ecological species concept, captive birds represent little more than a sample of its genes. This is especially true for those species such as parrots, in which behavior and ecological interactions are largely defined by learning, not genetically. Thus, arguing that pet populations insures conservation not only is a fallacy, but demonstrates profound unawareness of what are the objectives of conservation in the first place, and how these objectives should be attained.

Another classic argument for maintaining a captive stock is that it could supply individuals for the “unavoidable” pet market, reducing pressure on the natural environment. First, I must point out that the “unavoidable” argument has been historically used to justify barbarities such as slavery, gender inequality, and race discrimination. Second, we must all accept that culture does change, else we would still be living in caves and hunting for a living. That said, I believe pet market is actually causing an enormous environmental damage. IBAMA (Brazilian Environmental Agency) recently found a relationship between favorite pet species and the amount of individuals seized from illegal traffic (3), which makes a lot a sense. First, any individual decision to buy a pet depends on the observation of a pet elsewhere, in a friend’s house for example. One can only want what one has seen! Second, wildlife markets are composed of sellers, who advertise how nice and joyful it is to own a pet. However, a seller will never tell a buyer how damaging the pet market can be. We should learn and follow past successes and work towards the reduction of captive populations (and market), not for their intensification. Pet market reduction leads to a straightforward reduction of harvesting pressures on wildlife populations. Why would someone harvest individuals in the wild, if no one is willing to raise and buy them? Finally pet owners must understand that even if they have legally acquired their pet (which is never a 100% certainty), it could encourage others to buy animals in the black-market.

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There are many birds being openly sold abroad, such as in Las Ramblas, (Barcelona). But how adequate is for a Spanish (or any other foreigner) to be selling Brazilian biodiversity on the street? Is biodiversity a world heritage? As a humanist myself I think so. Then again, I must also agree with Senator Cristovam Buarque that if biodiversity is indeed a world heritage so is petroleum, gold, IPhones, and the responsibility to end hunger. Far beyond ownership, Brazil has a great responsibility over the conservation of this biodiversity, and I don’t really think it is prudent to have someone profiting over Brazilian biodiversity while creating environmental pressures on native populations. Still, while acknowledging that international market seems to absorb 30% of wildlife trafficking we may not treat traffic as a Brazilian problem (4). Furthermore, we must not forget it was wildlife trade that endangered many, many bird species in the first place. We also must not forget the perversity of its logic: traffic hits where it hurts. The rarer the species (the most threatened), the higher its value in the black market, and the stronger the trafficking pressures. Spix’s Macaws, for example, were extinct in the wild due to the same cage culture that now puts itself as their saviors. As already recognized by Helmut Sick in the 80’s “Hyacinth macaws has been exported ‘legally’ in great numbers to United States from Paraguay where it dos not occur.” Legal wildlife trade has being used by illegal dealers many times (5), and it still does, up to this day (6).

It seems very difficult to explain what are the gains for Brazil (and why not the world) to maintain and defend the cage culture. When this practice is abolished from the world we will come closer to truly guaranteeing wildlife conservation. To conserve cages is ultimately to put in risk many bird species.

(1) http://www.pnas.org/content/102/suppl_1/6600.full
(2) http://www.jstor.org/stable/1219444?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
(3) http://www.ibama.gov.br/sophia/cnia/periodico/effortstocombatwildanimalstraffick.pdf
(4) http://cienciaecultura.bvs.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0009-67252007000400002&lng=pt&nrm=iso&tlng=pt
(5) http://www.cizp.cz/files/=2828/cites%20news%2067-.pdf
(6) http://www.brasil.gov.br/meio-ambiente/2015/11/araras-repatriadas-de-portugal-chegam-nesta-quarta-feira

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Re: Opinion - On the conservation of cages - By Dr. Carlos B. de Araújo

Postby turbotabby » Thu Apr 28, 2016 1:50 am

Keeping pets, including birds, has been done by humans for thousands of years. From my own experience I believe having other animals around us, living with us, depending upon us and providing us with friendship, is an innate human need. It is beautiful to live closely with other beings. Seeing creatures wild is also a beautiful thing, but it is not the same and it is not as satisfying as having a close, personal relationship with another creature. Many peoples' lives will be poorer if they cannot live closely with animals, including birds. My life has been enriched by them. If you don't feel this way, realize you are different from others who have a need to be close to other creatures and don't try to impose your beliefs on us. If you want to work to ensure humane treatment, fine, but you do not have a right to prevent me from enjoying my relationship with my pets.

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Re: Opinion - On the conservation of cages - By Dr. Carlos B. de Araújo

Postby Psittacula » Fri Apr 29, 2016 9:13 am

First, any individual decision to buy a pet depends on the observation of a pet elsewhere, in a friend’s house for example. One can only want what one has seen! Second, wildlife markets are composed of sellers, who advertise how nice and joyful it is to own a pet. However, a seller will never tell a buyer how damaging the pet market can be.

Hi Carlos

This is a very valid observation and it affects the Parrot family more than any other bird family and indeed more than any other wildlife traded as pets. It is what I have called a Ripple effect in my opinion article. It has been magnified umpteen times by the internet and youtube in particular.
This threat is more with the "Talking" Parrots like Amazons, Larger Psittaculas, Cockatoos and Greys than with the "Non Talking" Parrots like Rosellas.

Before the advent of the internet , most decisions to purchase talking pet birds were probably influenced by seeing the talking bird in a friends' house. And Since parrots live long and assuming that the caretaker takes care of it for his/her entire lifespan, a single parrot which can talk can potentially prompt many many guests and observers to take the decision of buying parrots as pets over the course of his/her lifetime. However this demand would still be localised to a great extent eg say a very high demand for Yellow headed amazons in Mexico but none in far off Canada or Argentina let alone places like India where hardly anyone except a dedicated bird enthusiast would have heard of Amazon parrots in the 80s and early 90s.

But this has been magnified a great deal by youtube videos of talking parrots, and unfortunately even some scientific studies may have inadvertently contributed to this demand and now the demand for some species is unbearably high and is World wide.



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Re: Opinion - On the conservation of cages - By Dr. Carlos B. de Araújo

Postby JuanMasello » Mon Jul 11, 2016 1:06 pm

The Guardian,

Buenos Aires zoo to close after 140 years: 'Captivity is degrading'

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/ ... -argentina

2,500 animals will be moved to nature reserves in Argentina, mayor said

Zoo will become educational ecopark and refuge for trafficked animals

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