Animal Aid

FROM RAINFOREST TO RETAIL - Which Species? What Price?

Copyright Environmental Investigation Agency

In this second part of From Rainforest to Retail - a special Animal Aid report - we look at the bird species on sale at Focus and the 'profits in exotics'.

During checks on stores in September 2001 we found that Focus stock larger parrots (eg Amazons and African Greys priced £799) in some of their stores, as well as smaller parrot species (eg parakeets and conures priced £59.99 - £99.99). Small 'caged' birds (eg lovebirds, cockateils, budgerigars and canaries priced £14.99 - £29.99) seem to be a staple in all Petworld departments, as are finches (eg mannikins, waxbills etc priced £6.99 - £7.99) and quail (priced £8.99). Once purchased, finches and quail are usually kept in outside aviaries.

In early March 2001, we commissioned Peter Robinson, consultant ornithologist and former Head of Investigations at the RSPB, to visit a random sample of Focus Do It All stores.

Table 1: Species identified at one or more stores were as follows:

Category A - wild-caught
Common Name Scientific Name FOCUS Name Place of Origin
Yellow-fronted canary Serinus mozambicus Green-singing finch Africa
Black-rumped waxbill Estrilda troglodytes Red ears Africa
Orange-cheeked waxbill Estrilda melpoda Orange-cheeks Africa
Bronze mannikin Lonchura cucullata Bronze-wing Africa
Magpie mannikin Lonchura fringilloides Mannikins Africa
Black-and-white mannikin Lonchura bicolor Mannikins, or Bronze-wings Africa
Zebra waxbill Amandava subflava Zebra finches Africa
Spotted munia Lonchura punctulata Spice finches India, SE Asia & Indonesia
Monk parakeet Myiopsitta monachus Parakeet South America
Blue-crowned conure Aratinga acuticaudata Conures South America
Brown-throated conure Aratinga pertinax Conures South America
Maroon-bellied conures Pyrrhura frontalis Conures South America
Red-eared conure Pyrrhura hoematotis Conures South America
Category B - either wild caught or captive-bred
Common Name Scientific Name FOCUS Name Place of Origin
Cockatiel Nymphicus hollandicus Cockatiels Australia
Budgerigar Melopsittacus undulatus Budgies Australia
Peach-faced lovebird Agapornis roseicollis Peach-faced lovebirds SW Africa
Fischer's lovebird Agapornis fischeri Fisher's lovebirds Central Africa
Yellow-collared lovebird Agapornis personatus Masked lovebirds East Africa
Yellow-crowned Amazon Amazona ochrocephala No name South America
Zebra finches Poephila guttata Zebra finch Australia
Category C - probably (but not necessarily) bred in captivity
Common Name FOCUS Name
Hybrid or unusually-coloured lovebirds Safari lovebirds
Chinese-painted quail 'Italian Quail' Coternix

Species found, in the view of our bird consultant, were divisible into three categories, namely;

A - those who will have been trapped from the wild in their countries of origin,
B - those who were either wild-caught or captive-bred, and
C - those who were probably (but not necessarily) bred in captivity in Britain or elsewhere.

With regards to all of the species in category A, there is no culture of breeding these commercially in Britain, Europe or elsewhere and no commercial point in doing so as long as there is a free flow of trapped birds, as currently exists.

Some species are treated in category B, as possibly captive-bred on the basis that they are known to reproduce regularly in captivity, eg budgerigar, or zebra finch. However, the fact that some individuals have bred in captivity cannot be taken as evidence that all such birds encountered in the stores originate from captive stock.

Peter Robinson said that he had no doubt that, of the 21 full species (ie not sub-species) encountered at six stores, 13 came from the wild, a further seven possibly came from the wild, leaving just one species as probably captive-bred (see Table 1).

There were 441 birds seen in total at the six stores:

342, or 77.5%, were - in the view of our bird expert - wild-caught;
92, or 20.8%, may have been wild-caught or captive-bred;
7, or 1.5%, were very probably captive.

Profits in exotics

Focus works hard to promote the sale of its live birds and gives ample emphasis to its family- values sales strategy - for instance, in the illustrated content of its give-away advisory leaflets.

'...we are not just a DIY operation anymore, we are a family orientated store catering for families' needs.'

FOCUS in correspondence 29/2/00

The sale of animals is, therefore, a marketing exercise - part of a strategy aimed at attracting a family clientele to the store and also inviting return business.

By developing the demand for exotic birds, the company is involved in a process leading to large numbers being exploited in their countries of origin. In short, if people in developed countries did not buy live birds, there would be no incentive to trap them at source.

Useful profit

Dave Taylor, livestock manager of Safari Select, Focus's sole supplier of birds, confirmed our view of the retail chain as a company which is seeking to 'get somebody on impulse' to make a bird purchase.

While the sale of the animals themselves produce a useful profit, the income from associated products is equally important, as are the return journeys where various other DIY products may be purchased.

'The food, the accessories and the product. That's where your money is. All of it. If you sell a hand-reared African Grey, you'll make £150. You'll make £150 on the cage, make another £50 on toys, blah, blah, blah.'

Phil Dobinson - bird supplier to Focus.

In part 3 of

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