On Wings Compilation from the 1990's
Misc. Editorials and the Politically Incorrect Parrot
Detailed Commentaries will be posted to the Clearinghouse in the future, but for now, we will post this brief "digest version."
The Politics of Bird Regulation
In October of 1993, a group of seventeen people met in Washington D.C. where they formed a new organization to make policy recommendations that furthered their stated goal of "promoting the conservation of wild parrot populations and their habitat." The Association for Parrot Conservation (APC) was born.
Two of the group gave testimony June 16, 1992 before the Subcommittee on Fisheries and Wildlife Conservation and the Environment, Subcommittee on Trade concerning the Wild Bird Conservation Act (WBCA). They were Dr. Steve Beissinger, of Yale University a Research Associate of the Smithsonian Institution who spoke for the American Ornithologists Union, and Dr. Don Bruning , curator of birds for the New York Zoological Society (NYZS) and its division World Conservation International (WCI). Both supported an immediate halt to importations of wild birds into the U.S.
Don Bruning was was the co-author, along with Ann Michels of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), of the infamous "Dear Aviculturists" letter of July 1992 which urged aviculture to support the Wild Bird Conservation Act.
Primary author of the draconian regulations promulgated under the WBCA was Susan Lieberman , a former Director of Wildlife and the Environment with the HSUS, and who sat on the Executive Council of the APC. Executive Director of the APC was also a FWS employee. Rosemarie Gnam , a former research fellow at the World Conservation International (affiliated with the Bronx Zoo), shared responsibility for WBCA regulation with Lieberman. Lieberman and Gnam were responsible for writing and administrating regulations under the WBCA. In other words, these two APC members held the power to investigate, approve or deny proposed Cooperative Breeding Programs.
Lieberman and Gnam were also aware that the Congressional legislative history of this bill intended for the WBCA to "encourage captive breeding both in the U.S. and elsewhere." They overlooked or chose to disregard that mandate and instead, pursued the anti-avicultural agenda of the APC.
The APC was generously funded in part by animal rights groups including Defenders of Wildlife, the Animal Welfare Institute and HSUS. The APC and HSUS sued the FWS for stricter enforcement of the WBCA and so CITES III birds were added to its jurisdiction. Those of you who struggle to pay taxes will not be pleased to learn that in 1992, according to IRS Form 990, Line 1c "Government Grants", Defenders of Wildlife received $602,527.00 of your hard earned money. They lobbied against your interests and you paid for it! (Many such groups receive these grants)
Of course, HSUS was at the WBCA hearings. Teresa Telecky (HSUS) testified on behalf of the American Humane Association, Defenders of Wildlife, Earth Island Institute, EIA, Society for Animal Protective Legislation and the Washington Humane Society. She used the same old half truths, such as "Experts estimated that for every bird offered for sale in the U.S., up to five died along the way." How does one prove, disprove or refute such a broad generalization? But that is why they use such tactics.
Later Bruning, as chairman and curator of ornithology of the WCS (Bronx Zoo) wrote FWS Director Mollie Beattie and made an agreement between the USFWS, the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) and the WCS in forming a facility to house, care and hold confiscated, seized or abandoned wildlife. "Ideally", he wrote, "we would like to help set up a comprehensive clearinghouse which could place any and all birds without a need to auction off any animals by the USFWS or USDA." And so, they did just that.
The International Threatened Species Foundation, Inc. or FaunaLink, was a non-profit purportedly founded to "assist in the conservation of wildlife, especially psittacine birds, by providing a staff to accept, care for and breed birds and other wildlife; and to provide funding for wildlife research projects and to disseminate information regarding the captive propagation of wildlife. It receives birds through donations or on breeding loan, from zoos and private individuals, or from government agencies that include "wild-caught birds which have been seized and forfeited." The foundation intended to become self-sustaining through the solicitation of donations from organizations and individuals, and from the sale of the progeny of psittacines housed there. It still receives government grant money from the US FWS.
The original Faunalink BOD also included an avian veterinarian, a former retail/wholesaler pet dealer, a former importer and wholesale and a retired FWS agent who was one of the lead agents in Operation Renegade, which targeted aviculture in the U.S. and abroad. This agent raided a Florida facility in the early 1990's and seized four extremely rare and valuable birds from a person who was neither indicted nor charged with any violation of law. Two of the four birds that were seized died in Service custody. The other two were delivered within two hours of a Court order mandating their return. He maintains a collection of birds acquired by FaunaLink, including the relatively rare red fronted macaw and was nominated to serve as keeper of the National Studbook for the species.
By the way, there is no Exotic Bird Conservation Fund. The Fund, which was to have been created from funds generated from forfeitures under it and fines for violating the WBCA does not exist.