Austrian customs prevents the illegal sale of four rare parrots – red-fronted macaws (Ara rubrogenys) and military macaws (Ara militaris)

Early this year, a man from Styria illegally advertised two pairs of macaws for sale online. A police officer who spotted the ad on an online marketplace for bird sales suspected that it could involve a type of trade that was banned. In January 2022, he shared his suspicions with customs investigators, who are responsible for species protection. They jumped into action and stopped the sale, and joint investigations with the police were then launched as part of the cooperation between authorities in Austria.

Once the person who posted the ad had been traced, it soon emerged that he did not have the CITES permits required under species protection law for either the red-fronted or the military macaws. Both species of parrot are protected under the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and may only be traded with the corresponding documents. Military macaws are classed as vulnerable, while the declining population of red-fronted macaws also highlights how threatened these birds are.

In order to punish the poster’s violations of both customs and species protection law, the customs investigators took the planned buyer’s place in the negotiations with the poster over a purchase. These negotiations thus turned into an interrogation, which culminated in a confession.

Tax and financial criminal proceedings have now been brought on account of the financial offence of handling goods on which tax has been evaded, which will land the bird seller with costs of some EUR 2,700. As he has also violated the provisions of the Austrian Species Protection Act of 2009 (Artenhandelsgesetz 2009) through his actions, the customs investigation team at the competent public prosecutor’s office is also reporting the case. The bird lover can expect a further set of legal proceedings as a result, which may end with another fine. He has also lost all claims to ownership of the parrots, which are currently being housed in a suitable environment. They will be entrusted to the care of a zoo once both sets of proceedings have concluded.