Archived 2016 topics: Timneh Parrot (Psittacus timneh): uplist from Vulnerable to Endangered?

BirdLife species factsheet for Timneh Parrot:

This species was formerly considered conspecific with P. erithacus, but has been considered separate since 2012. It is endemic to West Africa, and is found from Guinea-Bissau east through Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire. Its population size is not certain, but estimates in 1992 put it in the range of 120,000-259,000 (Dändliker, 1992). This is likely to have been an overestimate, and the population is estimated to be decreasing rapidly, and so the population size is likely to be smaller than this.

The major threat to this species is from the pet trade, but habitat loss may also have a significant effect on this species. There has been a dramatic decline (90-99%) in the related and ecologically similar P. erithacus in Ghana (Dowsett-Lemaire  and Dowsett. 2014, Annorbah et al. 2016) and it is likely that similar processes that led to the decline have operated and continue to operate in neighbouring countries (R. Martin in litt. 2016). In fact, in the case of exploitation for the overseas pet trade the declines have possibly been at even greater intensities over the last two decades (R. Martin in litt. 2016). In terms of habitat loss, c.77% of the Upper Guinea EBA forest cover had been lost by 1991 (Allport 1991), and regional forest loss has continued at a high rate since then (H. Rainey in litt. 2010).

The species appears to have disappeared completely from around Mt Nimba (Liberia); surveys in 2008–2011 in East Nimba Nature Reserve and nearby forest failed to find the species, with no indication that the species has been present recently, and it was surprisingly scarce in the area as early as the 1970s. An estimated c. 1,400 birds were smuggled from Côte d’Ivoire annually in 1981–1984, over 99% being P. timneh. In Gola Forest of Sierra Leone it persists but never seems to have been particularly abundant, with groups rarely reaching double figures; elsewhere in the country large decline since 1930s and 1940s; now confined to mangrove belt and forests of the east (del Hoyo et al. 2016).

While there has been some domestic demand within range states, most impacts seem to be due to international trade, probably owing to the high value of this species. In addition to those birds smuggled from Ivory Coast, in 2009 Guinea exported 720 P. timneh, despite a quota of zero, and legal trade as monitored by CITES may represent only a proportion of the total numbers taken from the wild. CITES imposed a two-year ban from Jan 2007 on exports of timneh from four West African countries, and the importation of wild-caught birds into the EU was prohibited in 2007, leading to a fall in exports of both species, but the number of exportations rose once again in 2008/09 (del Hoyo et al. 2016).

The rate of decline is hard to quantify and previous estimates of past and future population declines were in the range of 30-49% in 3 generations (47 years), and so the species was listed as Vulnerable. However, given the extremely high level of capture for the pet trade and the continued levels of habitat loss the past and future rates of decline are likely to be greater than 50% over a three generation time period. This would then qualify the species to be listed as Endangered under criteria A2bcd+3bcd+4bcd.

We welcome any comments on this proposed uplisting.



Allport, G. 1991. The status and conservation of threatened birds in the Upper Guinea Forest. Bird Conservation International 1: 53-74.

Annorbah, N. N. D.; Collar, N. J.; Marsden, S. J. 2016. Trade and habitat change virtually eliminate the Grey Parrot Psittacus erithacus from Ghana. Ibis 158: 82-91.

Dandliker, G. 1992. Le Perroquet Gris (Psittacus erithacus) en Guinée: evaluation des populations, contribution à la biologie, étude de l’exploitation commerciale et recommendations pour la gestion. Report sur le projet CITES S-30. CITES Secretariat, Geneva.

del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Kirwan, G.M. (2016). Timneh Parrot (Psittacus timneh). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 15 September 2016).

Dowsett-Lemaire, F.; Dowsett, R. J. 2014. The Birds of Ghana: an atlas and handbook. Tauraco Press, Liège, Belgium.

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3 Responses to Archived 2016 topics: Timneh Parrot (Psittacus timneh): uplist from Vulnerable to Endangered?

  1. Some useful additional information has been gathered as part of a recent review carried out by members of the Working Group Psittaciformes of the International Ornithologists’ Union:

    Martin R.O., Perrin M.R., Boyes R.S., Abebe Y.D., Nathaniel D., Asamoah A., Bizimana D., Bobo K.S., Bunbury N., Brouwer J., Diop M.S., Ewnetu M., Fotso R.C., Garteh J., Holbech L.H., Madindou I.R., Maisels F., Mokoko J., Reuleaux A., Symes C., Tamungang S., Taylor S., Valle S., Waltert M. & Wondafrash M. (2014). Research and conservation of the larger parrots of Africa and Madagascar : a review of knowledge gaps and opportunities. Ostrich, 85, 205-233.

    Here some excerpts:

    Psittacus timneh Timneh Parrot
    Population and range trends
    In Guinea, trappers interviewed in the early 2000s reported declines of at least an order of magnitude (Clemmons 2003). The maximum count for the only intact roost located at the time was 200 individuals, whereas 10 years previously the same roost was reported to contain 550–650 individuals (Dändliker 1992a), although observations were made at a different time of year (Clemmons 2003). Dändliker (1992a) estimated densities in Guinea of up to 0.3–0.5 individuals km−2 in the south of the region of Guinée Maritime and Guinée forestrière based on counts at roosts and conversations with local trappers. Clemmons (2003) found that at many locations where trappers previously claimed there were roosts, there were few or no parrots present. In 2006, surveys made from vehicles (covering 509 km in Guinée Maritime and 818 km in Guinée forestrière and driven at 50 km h−1) and on foot (covering 21 km in protected areas including Pic de Fon, Bossou/Nimba and Ziama) did not record a single individual (Rondeau et al. 2007). Demey and Rainey (2004) similarly reported that they were not seen in the forests of Pic de Fon. Rapid surveys conducted in forest reserves in SE Guinea in November 2003 reported that they were encountered daily during three days spent in Déré forest reserve, which borders Côte d’Ivoire, present but not seen on most days during seven days spent in Diécké, which is close to the border of Nimba county in Liberia, and were not seen during six days spent in Mont Bero (Demey and Rainey 2006). They are not found on mainland Guinea-Bissau, in spite of the high proportion of apparently suitable forest habitat. A survey of the islands in Bijagós Islands reported their presence on nine out of the 15 islands surveyed (Clemmons 2003). The island of João Vieira in João Vieira NP supports the largest breeding population in Guinea- Bissau (P Catry in litt. 2013). In Liberia, they were once described as occurring commonly throughout most parts of the country (Bannerman 1951), but were more recently described as locally common, rare in the N and NW areas and lacking in some coastal areas (Gatter 1998). They appear to have become extinct from the forests on and near Mt Nimba in Nimba County, Liberia; surveys between 2008 and 2011 in the East Nimba Nature Reserve and nearby forest failed to find the species, and there was no indication from locals that they have been present in recent times (Dowsett- Lemaire and Phalan 2013). The species was surprisingly scarce in the Nimba area as early as the 1970s (Colston and Curry-Lindahl 1986). Rapid surveys (5–8 days spent in each location) conducted in 2005 reported that they were encountered most days in North Lorma National Forest, encountered daily in Grebo National Forest and were present but not encountered most days in Gola National Forest (Demey 2007). In Zwedru forest, they were seen or heard almost daily in low numbers (maximum group size of four) in 2013 (Phalan et al. 2013). In Sierra Leone, surveys conducted in 2005 and 2007 in the Gola forest area and Tiwai island reported them as frequent in primary and secondary forest, forest edge and farmbush particularly in NE parts of Gola forest (Klop et al. 2010). Additional surveys conducted in the Gola Forest reserve in 2006 observed them on 27 out of 32 days, 14 out of 15 days spent in Gola East, twice during 4–5 days spent near Belebu and daily NE of Lalehun (Dowsett-Lemaire and Dowsett 2007). They were mostly observed in pairs with an exceptional group of 11 at Sileti. In Côte d’Ivoire surveys conducted between 1999 and 2002 in Taï NP indicate declines and complete disappearance from considerable portions of the forest, particularly close to human habitation (M Waltert pers. obs.). Until 1991 they were found in all areas of the NP (Gartshore et al. 1995), suggesting a rapid reduction of the population in areas where hunting pressure is high (M Waltert pers. obs.).

    In combination with P. erithacus this species was one of the most heavily traded on CITES Appendix II. Between 1982 and 2011, 191 837 wild-caught birds were recorded in international trade (UNEP-WCMC 2013). At the peak of the trade, annual exports from Guinea of up to 11 000 exceeded the estimated wild population at that time (Dändliker 1992a). Large numbers have continued to be exported in excess of CITES agreed quotas and, following a 2007 moratorium on exports in wild-caught P. timneh (in all range states), there was a switch to exporting with invalid or fraudulent permits for ‘captive-bred’ parrots (CITES 2012a). The sustained large volume of exports in Guinea despite small local populations, and that many of the exported birds were of P. erithacus of which Guinea is not a range state, highlights that significant numbers of parrots are moved between countries in the region and the need for regional cooperation in trade regulation. Ongoing levels of capture to supply local and international markets are largely unknown but illegal capture is still suspected to be the primary threat to species survival in Liberia (F Molubah in litt. 2012; J Garteh pers. obs.). Some local trade exists and roadside sales occur openly in Monrovia (Phalan et al. 2013). Populations are declining in areas where old-growth forests are declining (Clemmons 2003). In Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, the preferred species of nesting and feeding trees are also preferred timber species and forests are being cleared for rice cultivation, hydroelectric projects and charcoal production (Clemmons 2003). By the early 1990s, it was estimated that 77% of the Upper Guinean forest had been destroyed (Allport 1991). Forest loss continues to occur throughout much of their range (UNEP 2008).

    Research and conservation: overview
    Clemmons (2003) outlined a regional management plan, including international workshops involving stakeholders, monitoring of population trends, and the development of educational and wildlife tourism initiatives. It was proposed that after five years, strategies for conservation and the potential for sustainable harvesting could be assessed. This plan is, however, yet to be implemented and, although a moratorium on all international trade has existed since 2007, exports have continued. In comparison to P. erithacus, there is a paucity of information on the status of populations and aspects of their ecology and behaviour. Some information on roost and flock sizes exist for Guinea and Guinea-Bissau (Dändliker 1992a; Clemmons 2003) and density estimates and encounter rates exist for Côte d’Ivoire (M Waltert pers. obs.) and may provide baselines with which to assess trends Nest site characteristics and diet are reported by Dändliker (1992a) and Clemmons (2003).

    Research and conservation: recommendations
    • Establish population trends by repeating surveys in areas for which baseline data exists, such as the roost counts conducted in Guinea (Dändliker 1992a; Clemmons 2003) and density estimates made using DISTANCE in Côte d’Ivoire (M Waltert)
    • Establish current status and distribution in all range states
    • Establish range boundaries of P. timneh and P. erithacus in E Côte d’Ivoire to confirm allopatric separation
    • Investigate habitat requirements, diet, breeding ecology and life-history parameters
    • Research the scale and socio-economic context of trapping and trade
    • Develop and implement a regional management plan (e.g. Clemmons 2003) including all stakeholders and the development of alternative livelihoods for trappers (F Molubah and J Garteh pers. obs.)
    • Ensure that trade restrictions are implemented at local and international level through promoting close collaboration between range states.

  2. Serene Chng says:

    TRAFFIC would like to share information on trade observations of this species, in a bid to quantify and better understand the threat from overexploitation.

    The species has most recently been uplisted onto CITES Appendix I (as Psittacus erithacus; full proposal and supporting evidence at on account of the threat to the species from international trade.

    Some measure of trade levels over the years can be gleaned from international trade records. Importer-reported trade records for Psittacus erithacus timneh from the UNEP-WCMC CITES Trade Database indicate that a total of 141,314 individuals were imported between 1982 and present for commercial trade, with numbers showing an increase from 1982, peaking in 1989 and then dropping to very low levels from 2006 onwards. This could be a reflection of trade bans as mentioned in the species account, but also due to declining wild populations; even before the trade ban there appeared to be a decline in the volumes traded. The bulk of these animals are reported as sourced from the wild (72,334) and of unknown provenance (60,063; mostly early records). As mentioned in the species account, legal trade as monitored by CITES may represent only a proportion of the total numbers taken from the wild.

    Although rarely recorded in markets in Southeast Asia relation to the Grey Parrot Psittacus erithacus, there is evidence that this species is traded internationally – two individuals of unknown provenance were recorded for sale in Bandung; neither bird was ringed.

  3. James Westrip (BirdLife) says:

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2016 Red List would be to adopt the proposed classifications outlined in the initial forum discussion.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 28 October, after which the recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    Please note that we will then only post final recommended categorisations on forum discussions where these differ from those in the initial proposal.

    The final 2016 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in early December, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

Comments are closed.