Illegal Bird Trade Happening on Your Facebook Newsfeed
BirdsCaribbean, a partner of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in conserving Caribbean birds and their habitats, has recorded an uptick of illegal bird trade happening across Facebook and WhatsApp.
While catching and keeping wild birds in cages is a common tradition in Cuba, the Covid-19 pandemic, paired with the rise of social media, has caused the illegal trapping and selling of wild birds to increase dramatically. What once was a practice only among family members and communities in Cuba has turned into a highly profitable branch of the global illegal wildlife trade. This illegal bird trade has even reached the United States, with shipments being seized at airports in Miami.
In a recent article, it was found that 36 Facebook groups openly selling wild birds – groups composed of anywhere from a few hundred members to 49,000 members – featured birds on sale that were often kept in poor and inhumane conditions. The study revealed up to tens of thousands of wild birds caught each season.
Of the birds being captured, many have a spot on the US Fish and Wildlife Birds of Conservation Concern List 2021, including many migratory species. Trappers often use the autumn months, when large flocks arrive in Cuba, tired and hungry. Whether birds plan to stay for the winter or they plan to rest while passing through, all fall victim to trappers who strategically wait until the birds are vulnerable to capture them.
While this problem has arisen in Cuba, there are many residents there who are dedicated to helping bird conservation and spreading education to protect these winged friends; however, they can’t do it alone. Around the world, people have come together to help save wild birds from extinction. At the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, we have teamed up with North American Songbird SAFE to protect North American songbirds for generations to come.
With social media giving trade groups the ability to reach thousands, this problem has become so widespread, but the solution can spread as well. We can all do a small part in protecting our winged friends: make sure your social media presence is responsible and safe – if you see something suspicious, report it, and do research to make sure the organizations you support put animal welfare first.
To learn more about how you can help protect birds from illegal trade, visit BirdsCaribbean.org