Lear's Macaws

Endangered species

blue parrots - mounted on a tree stump

© Stephen King Photography

These Lear's Macaws highlight the international trade in smuggling endangered birds.

A bird breeder from Northallerton appeared at Newcastle Crown Court charged with smuggling Lear's Macaws and Blue Headed Macaws. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison, and later ordered to forfeit £150,000 in proceeds from the criminal activity.

He was caught during a raid in 1998 when border force officers, supported by RSPB officials, seized the Lear's Macaws. A further 140 parrots were also re-housed during the operation. The breeder had smuggled them across Europe, following their purchase from dealers in Slovakia. He had laid a false paper trail to hide the illegal importation of the birds.

The Macaws pictured here were seized by Border Force as part of their investigation into bird smuggling. However these birds died naturally, but were later used as evidence in the court case. They are now part of the Border Force National Museum's collections, highlighting the trade in endangered species.

Lear's Macaw are amongst the most critically endangered birds, with a wild population of about 150 birds. Their natural habitat is limited to a small area in north east Brazil.

Accession number CENM1995.6

two blue parrots mounted in a natural pose on a branch in a museum display