by John Hayward, Theft Co-ordinator
John Hayward has for the last four years administered the Animal Theft Co-ordination Scheme on behalf of the U.K. Zoo Federation, The Parrot Society and the British Chelonia Group, (Tortoises, Turtles and Terrapins).
This was a previous un-filled void, as the Police do not maintain such a National index of stolen Species.
All such zoological animals, birds and reptiles, found, stolen or lost are recorded, circulated and all thefts researched to link the series and identify future patterns and trends.
All CITES species are circulated Internationally via CITES Secretariat Geneva, H.M. Customs for 'All Ports Warnings', Interpol and E.A.Z.A. namely the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria.
Similarly, whenever a theft occurs on the Continent or anywhere abroad John's office is notified and all Agencies are notified in the U.K. in case the animals are entering this Country.
Bird thefts are always the biggest problem. Parrots, Cockatoos and Macaws are regularly stolen from Zoos, Bird Gardens, private aviaries, breeders, Pet Shops etc., together with Tortoises and other animals and smaller birds.
Last year alone we dealt with 51 substantive thefts of quality birds, in total 572 birds were stolen amounting to £78,000-00!
There is little doubt that the majority are taken abroad as very few are ever recovered locally.
The thieves travel, they are professional and generally steal to order.
We do however have some success, in fact we recovered a Green-winged Macaw stolen recently in Northampton and two Blue and Gold Macaws from Bristol.
To help stem the ever-increasing thefts of this type 1 would appeal to all Bird Keepers to ensure that their Birds can be POSITIVELY IDENTIFIED either by close ring or microchip, or both.
The best deterrent is to catch the thieves and have them convicted and birds recovered.
The Police have limited resources and will not investigate thefts of stolen property of any kind if it cannot be properly identified.
If you can't prove the bird stolen you can't expect to prove a case of theft against anyone.
Your £5,000-00 motor cap is identifiable so why not your valuable Birds!
The thieves will invariably visit prior to the theft to research alarm systems and the ' lie of the land'.
It is essential therefore for everyone with BirdHouses, Aviaries, Collections and Shops to be particularly vigilant and to note any suspicious incident and especially to record details of any suspect motor vehicle.
Any such incidents should be reported immediately to the Office, as whenever any theft occurs and in reported, the more information we can give to the Police, the better will be the response.
There is little doubt that the C.I.T.E.S. Controls are having some effect.
Due to the restrictions of import/export from the Wild, at times demand is greater than the supply and therefore our captive birds come under attack.
The message therefore is 'Don't make it easy for the thief. Ring and Microchip your birds. Retain feathers and store in a secure signed and dated envelope - (as a 'control sample') and consider having a small sample of blood taken the next time you visit the Vet, again for identification purposes. D.N.A. now exists for comparison and identification purposes.'
Since the new European COTES Regulations came into effect in June 1997, all Annex A species most be permanently marked and the unique number on the close ring or microchip must be submitted to the Management Authority, namely the D.E.T.R. before they will issue the licence/certificate for the sale of the bird.
Anyone offered an Annex A bird, for example a Scarlet Macaw, Goffins or Moluccan Cockatoo, Cuban Amazon etc. should demand and examine the documentation.
We drastically need to reduce the numbers of our birds being stolen.
They are intelligent sensitive creatures and the stress of being forced into bags and boxes by thieves wearing balaclavas in the dead of night is the most cruel of criminal activity.
Very often, they do not survive the trauma, we lose the future breeding programmes but ultimately it is the very welfare of these beautiful ENDANGERED SPECIES that is the primary concern.
As the proud owner of a pet bird, whether it be a Parrot, Cockatoo, Macaw or one of the smaller species such as Cockatiel, Canary, Budgerigar or Finch, security is a vital issue.
Unfortunately it is a fact that birds become lost or stolen at times. This is naturally both traumatic for yourself and for the bird whose welfare is paramount and therefore the following advice is offered:
Identification - Ensure that your bird is either microchipped or has a ring and keep the documentation safe. If the bird is lost you need positive means of identification. In addition your Vet can take a blood sample for future D.N.A. comparison. There are Companies who specialise in this work.
Photographs - Photograph your bird regularly especially if it has any unique features.
In-House Pets - If kept indoors, ensure that all windows and doors are secure "when changing its cage" or during exercise periods. Fit padlocks to cages whenever the house is unoccupied to deter the 'casual thief.
1. External aviaries and bird-houses are particularly vulnerable. The following padlocks and padbars should be fitted, or other similar products as recommended by ourselves to the specialist Insurance Companies.
Padlock - Chubb Security - Model 1 K11
Padbar - Chubb Security - Model 7009
This equipment is made with high-tensile steel and the padlocks are "close-shackled", again to prevent break ins. Steel sheeted backings to doors is also suggested to give added strength and protection.
2. Consider either "Beam" or "Contact" security systems to activate audible alarms - available at most stores.
3. Install additional P.I.R. and lighting units. Thieves do not welcome security systems which create noise or illumination.
4. C.C.T.V./V.C.R. equipment can be utilised to survey the exterior from within the home, again at reasonable cost. N.B. Security Surveys can be arranged.
In addition, please be aware that even if wing-clipped your bird can still fly to some extent and many become lost especially as the new replacement feathers are forming.
Finally, I recommend that bird-keepers consider Insurance cover by one of the Specialist Companies, especially for theft and Vets' fees and that you join the Parrot Society UK or other dedicated Clubs depending on the species.
As Security Advisor, please call my office for any further information on any of the above aspects to ensure a safe and secure environment for your bird. E-mail: or telephone 01869 325699; 07802 404929; 01426 120425:
If anyone wishes to communicate with John Hayward, the Theft Co-ordinator, they can do so via the Office in the U.K.Tel: (44) (0) 1869 325699.