View more in
Atlanta, GA

'Hit share for native songbirds': Zoo Atlanta campaigns against trafficking of rare birds

Posted by 
Amy Cheribelle
Amy Cheribelle
 16 days ago
Pete Nuij/Unsplash

Trafficking of local species, regrettably, remains to be an issue. Through their publications, Zoo Atlanta aims to spread awareness of the issue and help protect the native species so that they may remain for generations to come.

Wildlife trafficking might seem like a foreign thing that happens far away in other countries. When people hear about it, the first thing they might think of is elephants' ivory, rhino horns, tiger pelts and bones, or other exotic beasts with high monetary value. Unfortunately, wildlife trafficking happens to all types of animal populations in the world. And the trafficking of important native species, like the North American migratory songbirds, is rarely talked about.

During the breeding season, 200 species of Neotropical migratory birds spend their time in the U.S. and Canada before they make their way down to Mexico and Central America to avoid the winter. Each year the migratory songbirds are able to travel a few hundred to thousands of miles during their journeys with a few stops along the way. The warm sunny state of Florida is one of those stops. That place, unfortunately, is where traffickers would ambush and capture them.

The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service has conducted several investigations of the underground market of songbird trapping throughout the years, but “Operation Ornery Bird”, which began in 2012, was particularly the biggest among them.

From 2012 until 2018, undercover agents were able to seize nearly 400 birds exposed in a large web of illegal songbirds merchants and buyers in southern Florida. Besides being traded as pets, the birds seized from these markets were doomed to be exploited in singing contests far away from their natural habitat.