ACT News

Canberra's gang-gang cockatoos under threat from smugglers

The Canberra region's beloved gang-gang cockatoos are being targeted by criminals who smuggle native birds out of the country, a local parrot expert says.

In the wake of a legal decision blocking the export of a pair of gang-gangs with dubious claims of ''research purposes,'' a breeder says they are increasingly sought-after by international criminal cartels.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal knocked back an attempt to ship a pair of gang-gangs to Israel after the would-be exporter changed his story about why he wanted the birds.

Israeli national Mohamed Zoubi asked the Environment Department in 2012 for an export licence for the cockatoos, saying he wanted them as pets, but was told gang-gangs could not be exported legally as pets.

He applied again in June that year and in 2013 to export birds, including two glossy black cockatoos to Israel for research purposes but was refused both times by the department, which was wary of the claims of scientific interest.

Mr Zoubi took his case to the tribunal, which backed the Environment's Department's concerns in a decision published this week, after the Israeli failed to prove he wanted the birds for scientific research. There was no suggestion Mr Zoubi was involved in illegal activity but the case has highlighted the attraction of birds on the global market.

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Daniel Gowland, who manages the Priam Parrot Breeding Centre in Bungendore near Canberra says more unscrupulous operators are targeting the gang-gang and that not enough is being done to stop the trade.

Bird fanciers in the US, Europe and the Middle East were falling in love with Canberra's emblematic cockatoo and criminals were stepping in to profit from the trade, he said. ''The gang-gangs are the ones being targeted at the moment,'' he said. ''They're sought after because they're unique, beautiful and gentle - a loveable little critter.''

The gang-gang is the faunal emblem of the ACT and is listed as a vulnerable species in NSW, threatened by habitat loss.

Mr Gowland said other species from the Canberra area were also attracting the interest of the smugglers, including the yellow-tailed black cockatoo, rosellas, grass parrots and Major Mitchell cockatoos.

''How it's working is that [the smugglers] are importing species that shouldn't be here and exporting the native guys for payment,'' Mr Gowland said. ''And because the government is not doing anything about it, it's getting further and further into the really dodgy areas - bikie mobs and all sorts of people.''

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