HUNDREDS of wild birds from Guyana have been flown to Heathrow this week, outraging conservationists.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says it is the latest example of a sordid, unjustifiable trade that is endangering species and which has just become less stricly regulated because of the EC's single market. Many airlines, including British Airways, refuse to carry the birds.
RSPB investigators say some 60 boxes, believed to contain about 10 birds each, arrived at Heathrow. The birds are in quarantine and are destined for amateur and professional breeders and cage bird fanciers.
They are part of a consignment of about 3,000 birds worth about 1m which arrived at Amsterdam's Schipol Airport last Saturday from Guyana. They included different kinds of macaw, parrot and toucan.
All the species are on the Appendix II list of Cites, the international treaty that attempts to control the wildlife trade. That means they are potentially threatened by the trade. Appendix II species can only be exported if the correct paperwork is issued by the host country.
In this case, Dutch customs found the permits to be in order. In theory, under the single market, no further checks are necessary as the birds are distributed into other EC nations. In practice, UK Customs and Excise is monitoring this import.
It was arranged by a company that specialises in air movements of wild birds, Livestock Air Carriers, run by Rodney Guy. He contacted the air freight brokers Willow Aircraft Charter, based in Southend, to get a flight. Andy Green of Willow said: 'We organised this charter having made it quite clear to the customer that all the relevant documents had to be in order and the authorities had to be satisfied. They were.'
According to Ministry of Agriculture figures, 2,628 birds were imported from Guyana into Britain in 1991; 28 were dead on arrival and 753 died in quarantine.