Exotic pet trade controls needed to fight bird flu says Greenpeace
October 31, 2005
MEXICO CITY, Oct 26 (Reuters) – A thriving trade, both illegal and legal, in exotic birds like parrots is undermining Mexico’s otherwise strict measures against bird flu, Greenpeace said on Thursday.
Mexico prohibits imports of all birds and bird products from countries with confirmed outbreaks of the virus, but the environmental group wants a blanket ban, saying the nature of the trade makes it hard to know where birds come from.
Tropical birds caught in the wild or raised in captivity, especially parrots, are popular as pets in Mexico, and thousands are imported or smuggled into the country every year.
Greenpeace says a total ban is needed because the trade frequently moves birds from countries like Suriname via third countries before they reach their final destination.
Suriname is believed to be the birthplace of a parrot that died of the lethal H5N1 strain of bird flu in Britain earlier this week. British authorities believe the parrot was infected in Taiwan.
“The birds pass through too many countries,” Cecilia Navarro of Greenpeace Mexico told Reuters. “A bird could reach us via, for example, Guatemala, that originated in Suriname.”
The European Union closed its borders to all wild bird imports this week in response to pressure from Britain.
Mexico’s animal health chief Jose Angel del Valle said Mexico was doing everything it could to prevent the H5N1 strain of bird flu entering the country.
“This ministry requires specific evidence … that every bird imported into Mexico is healthy. (Mexico) is not open,” he told Reuters.
Migratory birds, seen as a possible cause of cross-border infection since flu cases in Russia, Turkey and Romania, may present less of a risk in the Americas, because birds do not fly there from other continents. The means of entry would likely be through normal shipping or smuggling.
According to the World Health Organization, H5N1 flu has infected 118 people, killing 61 in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Cambodia.
Experts fear that H5N1 will mutate just enough to allow it to pass easily from person to person. If it does so, it could cause a catastrophic pandemic, killing tens of millions of people, because humans lack immunity to it
Mexico has taken a leading role in a drive to transfer to nations like Mexico, India, China, and Brazil the technology needed to develop and produce sufficient vaccines in the event of a global flu pandemic.
Two drugs are known to work against H5N1 flu — Roche Holding AG’s
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