The parrots were confiscated after the shipper could not produce all of the CITES documents necessary to move these animals internationally. After being detained at the Sofia airport, the four plastic containers the parrots were in were transferred to the Sofia zoo. When the crates were opened one parrot was dead, and the zoo will care for the remaining 107 parrots.
The announcement by the Customs agency did not name the airline the animals were shipped on. MEA has repeatedly offered assistance to Animals Lebanon when flying endangered animals to sanctuaries, and officials at MEA repeated that they do not fly to Bulgaria and that these animals were not on their aircraft.
Animals Lebanon documented two more cases of parrots being moved through the Beirut airport in late 2009. One shipment did not meet IATA requirements, old metal tins were used as dishes for water but were completely dry, and birds with broken wings and legs were visible in the large wooden crate.
Calls to cargo officials at the airport revealed that they had seem then parrots at the airport, and witnessed a disagreement between the customs officials at the airport and the person shipping the animals.
Grey parrots can fetch up to $2,000 on the black market in Europe, and the total value of the shipment is estimated at close to $200,000. Lebanon has issued import permits for grey parrots coming from Africa, and these highly intelligent birds are available in pet shops throughout the country.
Animals Lebanon has written to the Minister of Agriculture asking for an investigation into this matter. The Minister has made clear his intention of having Lebanon join CITES by 2011, and this case made clear the problems faced by countries not yet part of CITES. Iraq, Bahrain and Lebanon remain the only countries in the Middle East not part of CITES, and wildlife traders often exploit this.
"We are calling on the Ministry of Agriculture and Customs officials to carry out a complete investigation and to increase efforts to stop the illegal trade," said Lana El-Khalil. President of Animals Lebanon. "Monkeys, parrots and other endangered wildlife are openly for sale in pet shops in Lebanon. Zoos have admitted to bringing in lions from Syria, and there are at least five chimpanzees in Lebanon without CITES permits. It is clear that not being a member of CITES opens a country up to becoming a hub for the trade of endangered wildlife."