1 April 2023


Born Free marks a global day devoted to celebrating birds and encouraging their protection. Our Rescue & Care Officer Flo Blackbourn reports.

Today is International Bird Day and we wanted to tell you about the wonderful work of our colleagues at Limbe Wildlife Centre and their latest African grey parrot release. 

Flo Blackbourn

Flo Blackbourn

Born Free has supported Limbe Wildlife Centre, based in Cameroon, since 2004, not least their incredible work to rescue, rehabilitate and release grey parrots. At the end of last year, their team released 23 African grey parrots back to the wild. Since the Centre first opened in 1993, they have rescued over 3,000 African greys from the cruel illegal wildlife pet trade.

The parrots often arrive deeply traumatised and in appalling physical condition. But, thanks to Limbe’s expert team, they are nursed back to health, flight feathers clipped by poachers can regrow and they are introduced to other rescued birds – essential for the well-being of these deeply intelligent, highly social birds.

The parrots are then introduced to a spacious Born Free-funded aviary to build up their strength, aided by a highly nutritious diet, before being released back into a safe region of Cameroon’s tropical forests, from the Centre’s soft release aviary. The Centre has plans to fit parrots with trackers in future so that they can monitor survival, distribution and migration, all with the aim to be able to better understand and therefore help more parrots in the future.

Unfortunately, African Greys, like other parrots, are sought after as pets all over the world. Shockingly, up to an estimated 21% of the population is lost from the wild every year as a result of the illegal wildlife trade. In 2016, the species was upgraded by CITES* from Vulnerable to Endangered as the population has suffered from such a steep decline. It is now an offence to take the species from the wild in Cameroon, but the evidence shows that it continues.

This makes Limbe’s heroic work even more important. Most of the African greys they receive have been confiscated from illegal traders by the government’s Ministry of Forestry & Wildlife. They have often been caught from the wild using cruel methods including glue traps, have clipped wings and parasite burdens, so it is not uncommon for them to arrive with severe feather damage warranting extensive rehabilitation. These same parrots would otherwise be sent abroad to be sold as pets.

With your help, we can continue to help Limbe Wildlife Centre care for African grey parrots, as well as chimpanzees like Born Free-adopted chimp Chinoise, who lives at Limbe Wildlife Centre.

Head of Rescue & Care Maggie Balaskas says “It is a privilege to support Limbe Wildlife Centre’s amazing work. African Greys are remarkable birds, it’s wonderful to see Limbe returning so many to the wild – where they belong. That’s certainly something to celebrate this International Bird Day!”

*Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (2016) Consideration of Proposals For Amendment of Appendices I and II, Seventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties 24 September – 5 October 2016, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, Johannesburg (South Africa)