African grey parrots are beautiful, smart, and sociable animals. Sadly, these admirable qualities also make them very desirable in the illegal trade of exotic pets.
According to the organization World Animal Protection, the parrots are often shoved en masse into tiny, filthy containers. Their captors keep them from escaping by hacking off the feathers that allow the birds to fly.
World Animal Protection estimates that, under these horrible conditions, 66 percent of African grey parrots die before they even reach a plane.
In February 2019, World Animal Protection aimed their criticism at Turkish Airlines. The non-profit believed, according to an article they published in February, that the company was not doing enough to combat the illegal trading of African grey parrots and other exotic species.
They claimed that Turkish Airlines enabled the delivery of the parrots across multiple countries in Asia and Africa, including Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to their post, “As recently as August 18, 2018, African grey parrots were transported by Turkish Airlines between [the Democratic Republic of Congo’s] capital city, Kinshasa, and Kuwait via Istanbul, with more than 60 found dead on arrival.”
World Animal Protection launched a petition against Turkish Airlines, hoping the airline would begin taking illegal smuggling more seriously. The petition was a success and, at the time of the petition’s closing in March, had a total of 188,099 signatures. By March 7, 2019, World Animal Protection was already having meetings in Istanbul with senior members of Turkish Airlines.
While the airline is proud of their pre-existing policy against the illegal trade of animals, they realize they can do more. It is already company policy, for example, not to ship shark fin or dead wildlife seen as “trophies”. In February, the airline also announced a worldwide embargo on transportation of the African grey parrot on its planes.
The two groups agreed that the best first step is to work together to intervene and try to stop the illegal trading of African grey parrots in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the most parrots are smuggled from each year.
Due to their willingness to work with World Animal Protection to end the smuggling of parrots, the non-profit ended its petition against the airline.
Now they are launching a pledge to never purchase exotic pets. Anyone can sign this pledge to show their support. The non-profit reminds animal-lovers that there are plenty of domesticated pets looking for homes, including obvious favorites like cats, dogs, and hamsters.
There is no need to harm exotic wildlife in order to have a faithful companion at home. The easiest way to end the illegal trade of exotic pets is to end the demand for them, thereby halting the market.
The World Animal Protection organization advocates and provides aid for animals in multiple situations. They work to protect domesticated animals, animals living in the wild, farm animals, and animals currently struggling due to natural or man-made disasters. In 2017 alone, the non-profit reports they saved 610,000 animals from disaster and vaccinated 80,000 dogs against rabies. They advocate for the humane slaughter of farm animals for meat, work to end the overpopulation of stray dogs, and provide international emergency response.
Partnering with the World Animal Protection is the latest of multiple efforts by Turkish Airlines to combat the inhumane trading of animals. In March 2019, the Turkish Airlines subsidiary Turkish Cargo transported three circus lions and one cub away from deplorable conditions in Kiev, Ukraine.
According to Daily Sabah, the three lions and one cub “were imprisoned in a 35-square-meter cement and steel cage in Kiev, thousands of miles away from their natural habitat. For many years, the sisters and the baby lion lived poor lives, deprived of direct sunlight and clean air.”
Turkish Cargo, in conjunction with the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization, returned the animals to their natural habitat in South Africa. The lions had food and containers customized for their unique needs and were accompanied by keepers, veterinarians, and employees certified in transporting animals. The lions now live freely in South Africa’s Kragga Kamma Game Park.
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When more companies, like Turkish Airlines, begin working closely with animal protection organizations, there will hopefully be more stories of improved treatment of animals worldwide.