When I first read this article about the downstream problems of the pet trade, I was living in India and learning about efforts to reduce the poaching crisis of wild animals being transported eastward as well as westward. Florida seemed a long way away and the problem Bilger described was a crisis, for sure, but it bordered on sounding, for lack of a better term, exotic. And maybe worthy of closer observation?
It’s easy to spot a wild parrot in Miami, as in San Francisco, San Diego, and several other metropolitan areas in the U.S. But in Florida, “technically, it’s not illegal to take wild parrots, according to Florida Fish & Wildlife,” says Daria Feinstein, a parrot conservationist, in Neil Losin’s short documentary, Parrots in Peril. The film examines the threat that poaching poses to Miami’s wild macaws.
“I regularly see a half-dozen parrot species right in my neighborhood,” Losin told The Atlantic. “But until I met Daria Feinstein, I had never realized that poaching for the pet trade was such a problem for these urban parrots.”
Losin, who is trained as a biologist and has a Ph.D. in invasive species studies, said Miami’s macaws are no different from their native cousins in Central America, Mexico, and South America, “except that they live in a concrete jungle instead of a natural one.” Even though the birds are generally considered a non-invasive species, they are not protected under Florida law because they are not native to the state.
“Wherever you find wild animals that have commercial value in the pet trade—cities included—poaching can become a problem,” Losin continued. “The reason to protect these city parrots usually isn’t to stop the extinction of a species; it’s to prevent the birds’ suffering.” According to Losin, large parrots can live for 50 years or more, have the cognitive abilities of a human child, and form deep, decades-long social relationships with other members of their species.
Losin, echoing Feinstein’s words in the film, said that “capturing these birds to sell them into a life spent alone in a cage is cruel beyond belief.”