5 Ways to Reduce Your Impact on Endangered Wildlife while Traveling in Belize and Other Countries

Parrot poaching is a big deal. Especially for the Yellow-headed Amazon parrot (Amazona oratrix), a gorgeous species under serious threat of extinction in the world. Its numbers plummeted from 70,000 to 7,000 in the last two decades. Human encroachment on natural habitat fuels nest-robbing for the illegal pet trade. Belize Bird Rescue, a non-profit organization operating on a private reserve in western Belize, reports that 65% of all wild-caught captive birds die before they reach sale. Of those that make it, most are sold to people who have no idea how to raise a baby parrot, so the majority die in their first year, or grow up with leg, foot, or wing deformities due to malnutrition.

In Belize, some poached birds are sold on the international market, while others end up in homes or in businesses who want to add “color” to attract tourists. That’s where you and I come in.

It’s easy to make mistakes if you don’t know the guidelines (I speak from experience), so I asked Jerry Larder, Director of Belize Bird Rescue, what travelers can do to discourage the illegal trade in parrots and other animals.

Here are his recommended DOs and DON’Ts while traveling:

*Never buy goods made from animal hides, skins, teeth or claws or exoskeletons such as bugs and corals. Some leather goods are okay but exotic ones normally are not.

*Do not have your photograph taken with captive indigenous wildlife. By encouraging the keepers of the wildlife, more will be taken from the wild.

*Do not patronize establishments with captive wildlife on display unless they are government sanctioned as a breeding or educational facility such as a zoo. There is no educational value of a single monkey or bird in a restaurant.

*Do not believe anyone that tells you that he ‘rescued’ an orphan animal or bird, unless they are licensed rescue facility. The vast majority of these animals were captured from the wild and / or bought from dealers. If people really want to rescue a bird or animal, they will turn them over to a proper rescue/rehab facility.

*Anyone who buys a wild-caught parrot is condemning many more to death as the trade encourages more trade.

_________________________

FOR FURTHER READING:

BELIZE BIRD RESCUE

Belize Audubon Society (BAS)

“Wildlife Trafficking: A reporter follows the lucrative, illicit and heartrending trade in stolen wild animals deep into Ecuador’s rain forest” —Smithsonian magazine, December 2009

The World Parrot Trust

This blog entry was written while listening to BIRDSONG RADIO

(Photos courtesy of Belize Bird Rescue.)

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