© Ed Gullekson

Advocating for International Species

Protecting Parrots

Of the 374 species of parrots in the world, 116 are listed as vulnerable, endangered or worse by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red list of Threatened Species.

In the 1970s and 80s, the United States was one of the main markets for parrots in the world, with hundreds of thousands being imported legally for the pet trade and between 50 to 150 thousand parrots being smuggled illegally every year. In the early 1990s, the U.S. passed a law to ban the importation of wild birds, which helped decrease the enormous unsustainable take of parrots from the wild. However, smugglers continue to bring parrots into the country illegally, with Mexico alone accounting for 3,000 to 9,000 smuggled parrots each year.

What Defenders Is Doing to Help Parrots

Defenders of Wildlife has worked to obtain protections under the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species for several parrot species, including the yellow-headed and lilac-crowned parrots and the blue-headed macaw.

In 2005, Defenders worked with a coalition of non-government organizations to get the European Union to ban the importation of wild birds, which resulted in a marked decrease of trade in parrots worldwide.  

In Mexico, all but 1 of the 22 species of parrots and macaws are classified as either Endangered, Threatened or Under Special Protection. In 2007, Defenders produced a report with Teyeliz, A.C, a non-government organization we partner with, on the illegal trade of parrots in Mexico. In 2008, this report resulted in a landmark decision by the Mexican Congress to ban the capture, trade and export of Mexican parrots, ending a practice of trapping birds for pets that existed since pre-Columbian times.

In 2009, as part of a nationwide campaign to inform Mexicans of the new ban and how they could help save these species, Defenders and its partners produced and distributed children’s books, comic books, posters, stickers and teaching kits with one simple message: “Don’t Buy Wild Parrots.” One year later, the head of the Environmental Enforcement Agency in Mexico reported that the ban and communication campaign were working and the illegal parrot trade was decreasing.

To see the most recent materials available, including videos and downloadable comic books, visit our Spanish parrot website at,