Bird lovers have plenty to keep them calm. The gendarmerie has just dismantled a network in Reunion Island that had specialised in the trafficking of Mozambique canaries, a variety of birds whose import into this overseas territory is strictly prohibited, as the Indian Ocean island is not part of its natural habitat.
Smuggled in from Mauritius, where traffickers bought them for between €1 and €10, the bright yellow passerines saw their price increase tenfold on average, selling on Reunion Island soil for between €80 and €120 per animal via word of mouth. This species, about a dozen centimetres long, with a thick beak, compact body and short tail, is quite popular with private individuals.
"More than 1,100 canaries ... crammed into PVC tubes"
Investigators pulled the first thread in November 2022 following intelligence obtained by the detachment of the Central Office for the Fight against Environmental and Public Health Violations (OCLAESP) of Reunion Island. Informed, customs at Saint-Denis airport check a suspicious passenger coming from Mauritius. Good pickaxe.
"Checking his checked baggage revealed more than 1,100 canaries from Mozambique being transported without any medical evidence, crammed into PVC tubes and makeshift cages. These transport conditions have caused suffering to the animals and caused the death of 10% of them," the national gendarmerie said in a statement on Friday, December 8. The passerine smuggler is at an impasse, but a boulevard opens up for investigators.
Many protagonists questioned
In the wake of this discovery, the Regional Environment Unit of the Saint-Pierre Judicial Court referred the matter to the local OCLAESP as well as the Directorate of Food, Agriculture and Forestry of Reunion Island, and entrusted them with an investigation for animal trafficking. On 4 December, a judicial operation carried out jointly with the national police and the French Office for Biodiversity of Reunion Island led to the arrest and hearings of many protagonists: head of the network, resellers and customers.
"The dealers, who face up to 7 years in prison and a fine of 750,000 euros, were brought before the courts and sentenced to 2 years in prison, including 1 year suspended (including a ban on travelling abroad without the permission of the judge) as well as fines of up to 14,000 euros," the same statement from the gendarmerie said. Stressing that the repression of the marketing of animals illegally imported into Reunion Island fully contributes to the protection of the island's biodiversity.
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According to the ornithological portal "oiseaux.net", the Mozambique canary is locally abundant and widespread. It is not threatened on a global scale. However, the species, which lives on average between 2 and 3 years but can reach the age of 8 years in some cases, is easily tamed and is therefore frequently captured for the caged bird trade. The dismantling of this network ensures a more serene future for this passerine whose song in short bursts is only a weapon of seduction.