Buyers Beware (Caveat Emptor)

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Buyers Beware
Parrot Society member P.J.Hudson wrote this article some years ago -

Buying birds without seeing them first

Having kept birds for some 16 years I have been fortunate to have always had access to transport to travel around the country to collect birds for my collection. This is a luxury that we all sadly do not have and many people have to rely on the descriptions given to them by other members.

The majority of Parrot Society members are honest people who will give you an accurate description of the bird you are about to buy but sometimes problems can arise.

Recently a PS. member saw an advert for a bird within The Parrot Society Magazine. On ringing the advertiser he was informed that the bird was in perfect health, perfect feather, very steady and a proven English bred cock. On arrival the bird proved to have breathing problems, was very unsteady and would growl at anyone entering the room. After pressure was put on the man with the threat of him being reported to The Parrot Society he agreed to the bird being sent back and he was then sent a refund less the cost of carriage.

A happy ending you may think: well not quite as the local member has ended up fifty pounds out of pocket as he has paid for all the carriage and he was also informed that the bird had only been in the possession of the seller for a couple of days before being despatched. This in spite of the fact that the advert will have been placed weeks before.

How to protect yourself

Before sending any money off for a bird get the seller to put in writing anything you agree on the phone - The bird's health : Its nature : Its sex : The ring number : The feather condition - and any other major points about the sale.

Get the seller to agree on a total refund if you are dissatisfied in writing.

Make sure you do not end up paying all the carriage costs both ways.

This you may think to be a waste of time in your haste to get the bird but if the bird is then not as agreed you have all the information in writing and it does not end up as your word against his.

On a lighter note this is a rare occasion and although there were problems the powerful threat of our Society coming in to the issue was the saving grace.

Be thankful that all honest members have the support of the Society behind us.

P.J.Hudson©

Then we having the following in similar vein, based on notes written by past Council member and organiser of the National Theft Register, the late John Hayward, in 2017 -

We often say that the theft of the most endangered CITES species of parrots and other animals can be compared to the organised crime relating to fine arts and antiques, especially when supplying the illegal international trade. Fortunately these crimes do not happen that often but when they are committed, it is obvious that the property concerned is stolen to order.

Over the years we have suffered greatly from this type of activity but happily decreasing over time to currently quite a rarity especially in relation to the larger rarer parrots. So much depends on the demand at any one time when a criminal receiver will recruit experienced thieves to research and target premises to steal specific species on a ‘shopping list’. Such birds are not generally taken just on the off-chance of finding a home for them later. The thieves need to know that they are supplying and will receive payment as soon as they are in possession of their plunder. There is little point in stealing high value parrots, getting stuck with them and facing a possible lengthy prison sentence with none or little return for their efforts!

To quote a couple of examples, a few years ago a whole collection of breeding Red-tailed Amazons valued in excess of £100,000 was taken from a private breeder's aviaries in East Anglia and were never seen again. This is one of the most highly valued thefts ever to have taken place in the UK and the birds were no doubt specifically targeted for a criminal somewhere in the world, possibly in Europe. The birds would have gone into a private collection for the enjoyment of a receiver with no ‘papers’ and little possibility of ever surfacing. This is what we call the ‘black hole’ with stolen parrots not shared with others and a disaster for the future breeding of such beautiful birds.

On the other hand, sometimes the thieves come unstuck with their casual opportunist plans. Thieves drove from the South, up to Scotland where they were aware of Blue and Yellow Macaws in an aviary each worth upwards of a thousand pounds on the open market and easy to steal. Having forced entry into the bird-houses in the dead of night and bagged up the birds, they then returned to the North of England and in early morning daylight discovered that the parrots were in fact Hyacinth Macaws valued at ten times the amount and too hot to handle. They were immediately abandoned at the entrance to an animal sanctuary and returned to the lucky owners.

Security Warning – Internet Bird Sales

We have recently received reports of high value parrots being offered on websites at ridiculously low prices. For example, Hyacinth Macaws at £2,500 each when we are aware that the values are more in the region of £10,000 per bird on the open market. Some few years ago we suffered from similar alleged fraudulent advertising when a number of well meaning people fell for the scam and money was transferred to various bank accounts with the result of financial loss and non-delivery of the birds. The Hyacinth is often considered the ‘Mona Lisa’ of the parrot world, being the largest of all the species and the lifelong ambition of many people to own such a fabulous creature. The net result of this situation is that caution is thrown to the wind and that purchasers become victims to criminal deception and false pretences.

Should any advert appear genuine, ensure that the vendor is contactable via land-line with a permanent address preferably in the UK, arrange a home visit or at least meet up at a convenient location accompanied by a colleague, inspect the bird and record any vehicle details in their possession. If we are talking about such high value rare CITES species, ensure that Article 10 Licences are in order together with any other documentation such as hatch certificates and details of breeding and any previous owners.

When it comes to submitting a deposit or any payment electronically, be advised that this can finish up in some bank anywhere in the world. When it’s gone, it’s gone!

Remember: As often quoted, ‘If it looks too good to be true, it probably is’. and finally consider the Latin phrase, ‘caveat emptor’ i.e. LET THE BUYER BEWARE!

AKJ 2019 - see related articles on choosing parrots and record keeping. As much documentary evidence as is possible is ideal, in order to prove purchase and identity, should you require to register the parrot for CITES Article 10: if the bird should be lost or stolen, so that you can prove ownership; or if you or your family are required to pass on the bird in the future. 

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