In all that we write about conservation, a related tag – unfortunately – happens to be extinction. Brought about by forest loss, miscalculated development plans, social and political apathy towards ecosystems, lack of awareness – the reasons we’ve all heard of. Now, National Geographic reports on the disappearance of the ‘talking bird’:
Flocks of chattering African Grey parrots, more than a thousand flashes of red and white on grey at a time, were a common site in the deep forests of Ghana in the 1990s. But a 2016 study published in the journal Ibis reveals that these birds, in high demand around the world as pets, and once abundant in forests all over West and central Africa, have almost disappeared from Ghana. Uncannily good at mimicking human speech, the African Grey (and the similar but lesser-known Timneh parrot) is a prized companion in homes around the world. Research has shown that greys are as smart as a two-five year-old human child—capable of developing a limited vocabulary and even forming simple sentences.
Google the term “African Grey talking,” and you’ll find hundreds of videos—includingEinstein the talking parrot’s TED presentation—showing the birds whistling and mimicking words and phrases.
The grey parrot has a wide historic range across West and central Africa—1.1 million square miles (nearly three million square kilometers)—from Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana in West Africa, through Nigeria and Cameroon and the Congo forests, to Uganda and western Kenya. Ghana accounts for more than 30,000 square miles (75,000 square kilometers) of that range, but losses of greys there have been some of the most devastating.
“Grey parrot populations in Ghana have declined catastrophically, and the species is now very rare across the country,” said Nigel Collar, of BirdLife International, a global partnership dedicated to conserving birds and their habitat. Collar was one of the authors of the paper, which notes that since 1992 Ghana has lost 90-99 percent of its African greys.
“Dedicated searching, including visits to roosts, which had as many as 1,200 individuals 20 years ago, yielded just a handful of grey parrot sightings,” said Nathaniel Annorbah, a Ghanaian graduate student at Manchester Metropolitan University, in England, who was the study’s lead author.
Read more here.