Europe’s wild bird import ban must be backed by crackdown on smugglers
BirdLife International  today called on countries around the world to intensify efforts to stem the illegal trade in
wild-caught birds, following recent detection of the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus in both legally
imported and smuggled birds.
BirdLife considers a total ban on currently legal wild bird imports to be essential to reduce the risk of H5N1 entering
Europe via infected birds, but warns measures must be taken to counter the inevitable rise in smuggling that will follow
such a ban.
“Any move to restrict legal bird imports must be combined with controls on illegal trade worldwide,” said BirdLife
International’s Director of Policy, Dr Leon Bennun
As the H5N1 avian influenza virus continues to spread, the European Commission is deciding whether to ban the import of
wild-caught birds as a preventative measure. This is in response to an outbreak of H5N1 among birds imported into the
UK. A South American parrot died in quarantine from H5N1 last week, apparently infected by birds imported from Taiwan
that shared the same holding facility.
“With the advent of H5N1, the illegal bird trade has become not just a conservation issuebut a serious economic and
public health concern,” said Alison Stattersfield, BirdLife International’s Head of Science. “Controls and inspections
need to be tightened by both exporting and importing countries.”
The threat of H5N1 spread from illegal trade is real. In October 2004, H5N1 was identified in two crested hawk-eagles
Spizaetus nipalensis smuggled from Thailand to Belgium. The birds were found by chance in a random check of a Thai man
who had traveled from Bangkok via Austria.
In Taiwan last week, eight birds infected with H5N1 were found in a seized consignment of more than 1,000 smuggled from
the southeast Chinese city of Fuzhou. “Taiwan has been officially free of bird ‘flu since 1993, so it’s possible that
the infected birds which reached the UK had also been smuggled into Taiwan from the Chinese mainland,” said Dr Leon