AFA in action ... NEWS and VIEWS

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Abstract


President's Message
Conservation small grants suspended; a sign of hard
economic times or a question of priorities?
The American Federation of Aviculture has a long standing
history of providing "se~d money" for avian research and
conservation projects. In 1982, the research fund awarded its
first five grants. Five years later, in 1987, the conservation fund
was established to aid in important avian field conservation
studies. Over the years, the conservation fund has provided
funds for the study of nearly every kind of bird imaginable
from trogons to tanagers, hombills to hawk-eagles. For years,
the only criterion was that the species needed some conservation
action. Recently, however, as AFA's own "in house"
conservation projects expanded, it became apparent that there
simply wasn't enough funds for everything. The criterion for
awarding small grants was refined to require the species being
dealt with to, at least, be represented in captivity and an
avicultural component be incorporated in the project. With the
coming of age of "avicultural conservation" more proposals
continued to be submitted.
At the winter meeting of the Board of Directors, held in Las
Vegas, Nevada, the opportunity to support the field release of
Bali Mynahs provided the ultimate challenge. The project was
tailor made in promoting "aviculture as a field conservation
tool" yet no funds were available for the project. AFA's own
Red Siskin project was limping along on a less than $10,000 a
year total budget. The board quickly approved the funding of
the project but then wrestled, for nearly an hour, trying to
locate a source for the money just pledged. During the recent
spring Board of Director's meeting it was decided to
temporarily suspend the awarding of all conservation grants.
The entire concept of grants for field conservation studies
has always been of debatable value by much of the membership.
The theory was that aviculture can learn from field
studies and some field conservation strategies can be aided by
including a bit of aviculture.
The financial realities of AFA are a reflection of the
organization's constant desire to provide something tangible to
its members in exchange for their dues. A glossy, polished
magazine, monthly FASTADS, numerous costly mailouts, all
have created a situation whereby the dues had to be increased
simply to meet the cost of services provided. This situation
does not provide organizational support of non-service related
activities. Special projects and efforts must be funded through
special donations and volunteer labor. Long term projects, like
the Red Siskin project, are founded on the belief that funds will
continue to be donated.
Aviculturists invest a great deal in their birds. In many cases,
they are holding species endangered in the wild. Possibly the
last of the species. Unfortunately, some species have actually
been rendered endangered due to trade itself. We have a
responsibility to the birds themselves to think of them as 

something other than a possible source of revenue. Careless
consumptive use of other nations' wildlife will encourage strict
governmental regulations. A friend who is a native of a Third
World Nation recently asked •' Why should Americans be able
to buy and sell our countries' endangered species in an effort to
make a fast buck?"
Having exotic birds is a privilege. Recall that we are not able
to legally possess our own bird life. If the privilege is abused
on the local level, you may have to get rid of your birds. If it is
abused on a national level, we all face the possibility of having
to deal with endless permits and inspections. The success we
have in breeding birds frequently will not make a major impact
on our own lifestyles but it may determine the very existence
of our birds on planet earth. Consider the fate of the Soccorro
Island Dove had no one bred it. Remember the Carolina
Parakeet and those that said, "who would want to breed such a
common bird?"
We are doing aviculture and avian conservation a disservice
if we mentally separate the birds from their natural environment.
While AFA is no longer providing the conservation
grants, it remains committed to promoting the "big picture" of
exotic birds as residents of planet earth. Thinking of them as
only a means of making a few extra dollars is a short-term
consumptive strategy that does not enhance aviculture or avian
conservation.
Note: A list of avian field conservation projects is available
at the AFA Business Office (P. 0. Box 56218, Phoenix, AZ
85079-6218, Tel. (602) 484-0931) should clubs or individuals
desire to contribute to field conservation projects.


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