Parrots and macaws belong to the family Psittacidae. There are around 340 species worldwide, found mainly in the tropics. There are 126 species of parrots and macaws in the Neotropics, of which 49 are found in Peru.
42 species (around 30%) of Neotropical parrot species are thought to be at risk of extinction, with many more species in decline. There are 8 threatened species in Peru, and the ranges of many more have been severely reduced in the last 100 years. Many smaller parakeets do well and are frequently seen, but macaws are all under threat, since they breed slowly and prefer undisturbed forest away from humans so can’t withstand human encroachment and exploitation. As people move further into the forests, parrots and macaws could disappear in the next 20-30 years from all but the biggest parks like Manu National Park.
As with many species, a big threat to parrots today is habitat loss to farming and development, meaning loss of their homes, nest sites and feeding places. Some species are also killed for food, feathers, or to protect crops.
Probably the biggest threat though is the taking of wild parrots, particularly macaws, for the pet trade. There are records of parrots being kept as pets dating as far back as 400BC in ancient Greece. They are popular pets since they are bright, colourful, affectionate, intelligent, and have individual personalities, but the large macaws in particular can make bad pets, needing constant attention and stimulation, being very noisy and destructive, and often outliving their owners. Export of parrots became illegal in Peru in 1973 and is now illegal in many countries, but smuggling is still a big problem. For example, in the United States it is estimated that parrot species make up about 25% of all illegal trade in wild birds. Smuggled birds are hidden in small boxes and crates and many die on the journey.
There are several problems associated with the trade in wild parrots. Firstly, and most obviously, it involves a lot of cruelty, taking chicks away from their parents and transporting them often in terrible conditions to what is arguably not a happy life for a wild bird. It is also very wasteful; for every bird that reaches the marketplace, another 20 to 50 may die. Finally, and most seriously, to get the young birds, trees are cut down to reach the nest. Many chicks die in the fall, and the parents often won’t breed again that year. Also, it means the loss of nest sites, which as I already mentioned is already a limiting factor in the reproduction of many species. Macaws are the hardest hit by the pet trade, since they have low reproductive rates and are greatly affected by the loss of nest sites, so populations take a long time to recover.
REMEMBER: FOR EVERY WILD ANIMAL YOU FIND IN A PET STORE THERE WERE 10 INDIVIDUALS DEAD DURING THE PROCESS OF THE ILLEGAL PET TRADE, DON’T BE PART OF THE PROBLEM, BE PART OF THE SOLUTION!!