A three-year campaign to return three rare macaw birds to Brazil has reached the British Parliament.
The three Lear's macaws, estimated to be worth 80-thousand pounds (120-thousand dollars) on the black market, were smuggled into Britain from Eastern Europe and seized by Customs in 1998 from a bird breeder's farm in Yorkshire. There are severe penalties for smuggling rare creatures. The breeder was jailed for eighteen months and is appealing against a 150-thousand pound (225-thousand dollar ) confiscation order, deemed to be the profits from his activity.
After representations and an official note to the Foreign Office from the Brazilian Embassy in London, a Member of Parliament, Boris Johnson, has urged the Attorney General and Customs and Excise Minister to order the "speedy repatriation" of the macaws to Brazil.
The Brazilian Embassy has complained it is taking an extraordinary long time and Brazil has become impatient. The Customs Department want to send the birds back to Brazil but court proceedings have so far prevented them acquiring legal custody which they are required to do for anything they seize.
Mr Johnson says: "I hope people will back me in the campaign to free the Brazil Three. The British taxpayer will not indefinitely pay for the incarceration of these beautiful creatures, especially when they are not even able to see these gorgeously plumed birds".
The blue and yellow Lear Macaws are found in the Bahia region of Brazil, where there are believed to be only 246 left in the wild. Environmentalists want the three captive birds returned to their jungle homeland for a breeding programme. The three are a breeding pair about eight years old and one female aged about eleven. They can live for up to 50 years.
They are kept in tight security in an aviary fitted with alarms, closed-circuit television, movement sensors and security lights. Their keeper says they are friendly together but have not produced any eggs. "They are very loud screeches", he says.
Harold Briley, (MP) London