Jane Goodall released 17 African Grey parrots back into the wild in an emotional ceremony Friday on Ngamba Island, Uganda in Africa. The World Parrot Trust and Fly Free announced that the well-known chimpanzee expert and conservation leader pulled the string to open the cage door that finally allowed the greys to fly free three years after they were originally smuggled out of Africa.
As I reported earlier, a group of 32 African Greys were first returned to the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary in March. However, the birds needed to be quarantined and health tested before they could be returned to the wild.
When Jane Goodall released the grey parrots on Friday, it was the final chapter in a harrowing three-year saga that first began in April 2010. That's when Bulgarian customs officials intercepted a shipment of 108 African Grey parrots at the Sofia airport. The poached birds were traveling from Lebanon to Europe on falsified documents.
The smugglers had not taken good care of the parrots, and many of them died even though they were transferred to the Sofia Zoo for veterinary care.
The exact place that the birds were poached isn't known. As a result, the parrots were caught in a paperwork limbo for awhile.
It took two years for Bulgaria to rule that the parrots should be returned to a location where trapping is not allowed.
Ugandan authorities agreed that the birds could be returned to their country to help restore the species to its historic range.
The international collaboration meant that the parrots finally got the chance to be rehabilitated and returned to their wild lives in Africa.
The top photo by Charles Bergman for the World Parrot Trust shows three of the Grey parrots after their release. There are many more photos of the release at Fly Free, a group that works with the WPT to safely rescue parrots caught up in the illegal trade so that they can be returned to the wild.
Here's the video of the effort:
"It's a story of hope and what can be done when people come together. I'm extremely happy to pull this string and give these parrots this opportunity," Jane Goodall said as she released the African Grey parrots.
[Grey parrots photo by Charles Bergman via World Parrot Trust]