Please use the sharing tools found via the share button at the top or side of articles. Copying articles to share with others is a breach of FT.com T&Cs and Copyright Policy. Email email@example.com to buy additional rights. Subscribers may share up to 10 or 20 articles per month using the gift article service. More information can be found here. https://www.ft.com/content/b542e45a-12a7-11ea-a7e6-62bf4f9e548a The first thing to know about the African grey parrot is that it is not entirely grey. The medium-sized bird, which lives in forests in west and central Africa, has electric-red tail feathers that make it a target for poachers, who use the plumage for ceremonial headdresses. Its body parts are used in traditional medicine. Unfortunately for the African grey, these are the least of the species’ problems. A highly intelligent animal capable of mimicking human speech and which can live in captivity up to the age of 60, it has also been a sought-after pet since biblical times. In an era when the international pet trade has reached industrial proportions, the demand — from the Middle East and Asia as well as Europe and North America — threatens the African grey’s long-term existence in the wild. The parrot inhabits a strip of equatorial forest that runs from Ivory Coast through Nigeria, Cameroon and Gabon and into the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Ghana, where poaching has been intense, the population has fallen more than 90 per cent since the early 1990s, according to estimates. Numbers of birds in other countries are difficult to gauge, but experts at the Zoological Society of London, the FT’s Seasonal Appeal partner for 2019, say they are falling sharply. So acute has the problem become that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) outlawed trade of the African grey altogether in 2016. Before the ban, about 1.3m parrots had been exported legally since 1980, according to estimates, excluding the hundreds of thousands that likely died during trapping and transportation. Conservationists are divided over the efficacy of the ban. Samuel Nebaneh, a law enforcement co-ordinator in Cameroon, which has a large population of grey parrots, welcomes it. “It has had a positive effect. Some parrots have been seized and traffickers have been sent to trial,” he said.