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Nature Conservation

Volume 476: debated on Monday 19 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what arrangements have been made for birds issued with Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species transaction specific certificates but removed from Schedule 4 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to be traced by the police for DNA testing when suspected of being wild-taken. (205799)

The UK CITES Management Authority (UKMA) makes every effort to ascertain the legality of acquisition of a bird before issuing a Transaction Specific Certificate. However if information came to the attention of the UKMA after issuing a certificate which led it to doubt the veracity of the original application, it would trace the ownership via the name and address in Box 1 "holder", as the certificate is re-issued every time the bird is used on a commercial basis by a new keeper. Applications for certificates will also contain details of parent birds, if known.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which of the 11 non-EU species proposed by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee for inclusion in Schedule 4 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 have existing captive populations in the UK; and what assessment he has made of the effects of including these species in Schedule 4 on the risk of wild birds being smuggled into the UK and their subsequent laundering. (205800)

Of the 12 species originally proposed by the JNCC for listing on Schedule 4, nine are non-EU species. Animal Health has issued CITES permits for six species (red-browed amazon, red-tailed amazon, hyacinth macaw, blue-throated macaw, red vented/Philippine cockatoo and Bali starling) in the last 10 years, indicating that these species have been kept in captivity in the UK.

The EU ban on wild bird imports has meant that, other than birds imported for conservation programmes, only captive-bred birds from approved breeding establishments have been permitted for import into the EU. Any import of wild non-EU birds would be contrary to the ban and CITES regulations. I consider that these regulations maintain a satisfactory level of control on any trade in the nine species, and there is no evidence to suggest that these controls do not work.

I do not consider that the listing of the nine non-EU species on Schedule 4 in England would have any effect on any illegal take of these species that may occur from the wild in third countries.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress has been made in ensuring that captive populations of species to be removed from Schedule 4 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 are DNA profiled; and what procedures will be put in place to enable such profiles to be used to determine the (a) legitimacy and (b) parentage of birds of such species in the future. (205801)

My Department has no plans to carry out DNA testing on all birds that may be removed from schedule 4. The Department has no evidence to suggest that the population of birds currently listed on schedule 4 is other than from primarily legitimate sources. The cost of DNA testing the whole captive population would be prohibitively expensive and would not be justified by any possible enforcement or conservation benefit. Any DNA testing to be carried out by Animal Health will be based on a risk and intelligence-led approach.

Modern breeding techniques use artificial insemination from a variety of possible male donors. The movement, and death of many of the birds involved in this process means that any comprehensive testing scheme for all birds subject to registration would simply not be logistically possible.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the reasons are for the revision of the criteria used to decide which species should be listed on schedule 4 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. (205802)

The prohibition on the import of wild birds into the EU was extended in July 2007 and with this prohibition likely to remain in force for the foreseeable future, the situation in the commercial trade of wild birds has changed. My Department therefore revised the criteria for the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) assessment of species to be listed on schedule 4. The list of species provided by the JNCC was considered in terms of the proportionality of the burden that registration of these species would place on keepers, balancing any conservation benefit that may arise from registration against the regulatory burden imposed by registration.