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MAF Investigates Illegal Release Of Parrots

6 December 2000

MAF Investigates Illegal Release Of Parrots From Quarantine

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is advising people who have obtained certain exotic parrot species that such birds may have been illegally released from quarantine in 1997.

A list of the species of concern to MAF appears below.

Owners of rare exotic parrot species are being encouraged to contact the MAF free phone number - 0800 809 966 - to provide information that may assist tracing the illegally released birds.

There is a possibility that an exotic parrot disease, Pacheco's Disease, was brought into the country four years ago when a number of birds were illegally smuggled out of a quarantine facility.

Pacheco's Disease is a form of herpes virus, which occurs almost exclusively in parrots. It does not affect humans.

In early 1997 a consignment of 129 parrots was imported into the country. During the quarantine period, five parrots died with Pacheco's Disease. As a result of the deaths in quarantine, and because Pacheco's Disease was not established in New Zealand, MAF ordered the entire consignment of birds to be either returned overseas or destroyed. The importer, however, obtained a court injunction, which delayed the implementation of the order. Once the legal issues were resolved, the importer opted to have the parrots destroyed.

The imported birds were believed to have been destroyed in July 1997. MAF, however, learnt earlier this year that a number of birds had been substituted prior to the destruction order being carried out and some of the original shipment was, in fact, still alive.

The Ministry today seized a number of illegal birds as a result of information gathered about the substituted birds.

MAF is now trying to trace all remaining birds from the original import consignment, along with birds which may have been in contact with them in the quarantine facility, as some of these birds may also have acquired Pacheco's Disease infections. Such birds may appear outwardly healthy. The Pacheco's Disease virus can be latent in infected birds for a long period after infection until stress activates the virus causing disease. Diseased birds shed the virus in faeces and respiratory discharges.

All parrot species are assumed to be susceptible to infection with Pacheco's Disease herpesvirus, although susceptibility to disease varies. This raises concerns for New Zealand native parrots. MAF is working with the Department of Conservation to assess the risk from these events to our native parrot populations. Disease is thought to only occur in birds held in artificial captive environments, such as in aviaries or in quarantine.

Many of the birds from the 1997 consignment were species not previously present in New Zealand, and so any birds of these species present in New Zealand may have come from the illegal release. Current owners of birds of these breeds may not be aware of their history, nor their exposure to and potential infected status for Pacheco's disease.

MAF would like to hear from anyone who purchased one of the following breeds of bird since 1997:

Blue Crown Conure, White Eyed Conure, Green Conure, Mitred Conure, Maroon tailed Conure, Peach Fronted (golden crowned) Conure, Dusty Headed Conure, Olive throated Conure, Ring-necked Parakeet, Chattering Lories, Green Naped Lorikeets (Rainbow), Edwards Lories, Red Lory, Blue Streaked Lory, Yellow Streaked Lory, Papuan Lory (Stella). Goldies Lories, Meyers Lories, Swift Parrots, Perfect Lories, Blue Bonnets, Orange Fronted Conure (Petz), Blue Pennant, Brown Throated Conure, Meyers Parrot, Patagonian Conure, Orange Winged Amazon, Red Bellied Macaw and Green Winged Macaw.

For further information contact: Derek Belton, MAF Director, Animal Biosecurity. Telephone: 04-474-4155 Jockey Jensen, Manager, Enforcement Unit. Telephone: 09-357-1052.


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