Illegal exports threaten bird life

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The Independent Online
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds yesterday urged the Government to stop a burgeoning trade in wild bird exports to Malta and Europe.

The acceleration in the export of a variety of wild birds - including greenfinches, bullfinches, goldfinches, tits and linnets - came following deregulation of strict licensing laws governing exports in 1993.

The RSPB asked the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to hold an inquiry into the number of birds being exported to Malta which found that almost 6, 500 left the country between 1 January 1995 and 30 September 1996.

It is legitimate to export birds that have been brought up in captivity but it is illegal to capture wild birds under legislation and the EU birds directive.

The Department of the Environment is responsible for ensuring that regulations governing the export of birds are complied with, but the RSPB would like to see an examination of the present licensing laws and more urgency being shown regarding enforcement.

A spokesman for the RSPB, Chris Harbard, said: "If the growth in this illegal trade is due to deregulation then there needs to be a closer look at that process and the need to tighten up these laws."

Mr Harbard was particularly concerned about the damage being done to the already depleted stocks of bullfinches and goldfinches in the UK. "The bullfinch population has declined by 50 per cent over the last 25 years and the goldfinch by between 25 and 50 per cent in the same period," he said.

Eliot Morley, Labour MP for Glanford and Scunthorpe, recently asked in Parliament whether greenfinches being presented for export were being taken illegally. The DoE said enforcement amounted purely to the public drawing cases to the attention of the department which would then pass any information on to the police.

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