Illegal Mexican Parrot Trade Targeted by New Ban

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But most illegally captured parrots stay in Mexico, Defenders of Wildlife's Guzmán added. The parrots are dispersed to different distribution centers and then sent to countless markets across the country.

Mexico only allows the sale of parrots via legal channels, such as through a federally established conservation area or the regulated estates of bird-trapper and exporter unions.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 parrots are allowed for capture each year, according to government quotas.

But there is no efficient marking system to differentiate between legally and illegally captured birds, Sosa of PROFEPA said.

Especially at informal markets, the only method to differentiate between legally and illegally captured parrots is to check if a bird has a band around its leg. A band signifies a legally caught bird.

"It's very hard to monitor bird trappers. [The Defenders of Wildlife Mexico report] is the first time anyone has been able to get an estimate on the illegal trade of bird species," Guzmán said.

Little Oversight

The group's research found that Mexican environmental officials "had absolutely no effect on the illegal parrot trade," Guzmán added. Only 2 percent of trafficked parrots are confiscated by government officials each year.

Mexican unions also protect rights of professional bird trappers, who say they comply with government rules when capturing birds. The permanent ban has outraged many bird trappers.

Fidél Chavez Policarpio captures parrots legally for a living and sells them at México City's bustling Sonora Market.

"I capture the parrots in Vera Cruz [one of Mexico's coastal regions], and then usually have 20 to 30 customers a week when I return to the city," said Policarpio, who has been working in the parrot trade for 15 years.

Like other trappers, he delves into Mexico's forests armed with only a net, work he describes as "very difficult."

"It would be bad if they did [ban parrot sales]," Policarpio said. "My family and I need bird trapping to survive. I have children to take care of."

Parrot vendor Samuel Daniel Zarate has been selling the colorful birds nearly all of his life in México City, though he is not involved with the birds' capture.

He believes the legal sale of birds should still be allowed at markets such as Sonora, where the sale of exotic birds is booming.

"I have too many customers," Zarate said. "People here love parrots and guacamayas."

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