Transportation of animals at South African airports to undergo extensive changes

by Mar 17, 2011Wildlife News

The tragic death of 750 African Grey parrots on a flight during December 2010 from Johannesburg to Durban, led 1time airline, Bid Air Cargo (previously Express Air Services), one of the biggest movers of livestock by air in the country and the NSPCA to instigate an investigation into animal and bird handling procedures at South African airports. A working committee of various stakeholders has been set up to investigate and implement best practice nationally.

Rodney James, CEO of 1time airline says, “All the staff of 1time were deeply distressed by the death of the parrots and when Dr Steve Boyes of the World Parrot Trust explained the problems involved in the wild caught bird trade, we knew we had to act on it. Fortunately, our cargo partner, Bid Air Cargo had already been considering international best practice in the transportation of livestock and their recommendations as well as those of other stakeholders in the cargo and animal and bird industries will now be implemented.”

Dr Steven Boyes of the World Parrot Trust Africa and Wild Bird Trust, believes the death of the parrots was caused by a convergence of factors and that no one party is entirely to blame.

He continues, “South Africa exported almost 25 000 African Greys in 2009, yet still needed to import over 5 000 wild caught African Grey Parrots from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Continued trade in wild-caught African Greys threatens their persistence in the wild, and is unjustifiable, unethical and a significant threat to global biodiversity conservation. Transporting captive-bred birds is one thing. Transporting stressed wild-caught birds, however, is an entirely different undertaking with significant risks to both the birds and human handlers. We are grateful to 1time and to Bid Air Cargo and hope that other airline cargo operators will assist in squeezing the pipeline of wild-caught birds being transported into or out of the country.”

The working committee plans to implement:

– a custom live animal terminal at airports with skilled personnel and a separate check-in counter for livestock

– a national, accessible database of endangered species

– statistics of the movement of birds and animals through airports will be collated by the cargo operators and shared with the National Zoo, NSPCA, CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and government

– a panel of experts of animals and birds who can advise and evaluate potentially risky transportation consignments and conditions

– new booking procedures for the acceptance by Bid Air Cargo for animal or bird transportation. 48 hours notification will need to be given prior to travel which will allow ample time to check the bona fides of the cargo as well as best practice for transportation

– recommendations for TETA (Transport Education and Training Authority) industry standards for the transportation of birds and animals via air and road

– assistance through The Association of Air Cargo Operators Committee to raise awareness of the special needs of animal and bird transportation amongst its members and will share best practice

– skills within the airline industry to be improved to be able to better handle the transportation of all animals.

The committee which is to meet monthly is represented by:

– 1time airline

– Bid Air Cargo

– Cargo Learning Academy

– The Airline Cargo Operators Committee

– The National Zoo


– The World Parrot Trust


Issued on behalf of the working committee by Michelle K Blumenau, Turquoise PR & Marketing Communications T 011 728 5004 / 083 273 9891 /