Conserving the Nature of America

News Release

EXOTIC PARROT EXPERT AND THREE OTHERS INDICTED FOR SMUGGLING EXOTIC BIRDS

December 13, 2001

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Exotic parrot expert Tony Silva, of Monroe Center, Illinois, his mother and two other individuals were charged today with conspiring to smuggle more than $1.3 million worth of exotic birds into the United States. Todays charges follow a nearly four-year investigation into the smuggling activities of Silva.

If convicted, Silva faces a combined maximum prison term of 45 years and a maximum fine of $2.5 million. His mother faces a combined maximum prison term of 50 years and a total fine of up to $2.75 million. The remaining co-defenders each face a combined maximum prison term of five years and a fine up to $250,000.

James Burns, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement Chief John Doggett III, announced the return of a 15-count indictment charging that the four conspired to smuggle protected parrots, including at least 186 Hyacinth Macaws. Each Hyacinth Macaw can draw between $7,000 and $15,000 through legitimate retail sales.

According to todays charges, Silva, his mother Gila Daoud, of Riverside, Illinois, and co-conspirators Gisela Caseres, from Asuncion, Paraguay, and Hector Ugalde, from Miami Beach, Florida, engaged in smuggling for profit and added to the depletion of these rare and protected birds from their natural habitats. Silva and his mother reaped huge profits from their sale of Hyacinth Macaws and other bird species. As noted in the indictment, for just two shipments of 79 Hyacinth Macaws, Silva and Daoud paid co-defendant Gisela Caseres, also known as Ann Koopman, approximately $47,000 as her share of the profits.

Silva, Daoud, Caseres and Ugalde are also charged with smuggling various other species of highly protected parrots and macaws into the country for commercial purposes. Some of those species, such as Crimson-bellied Conures and Vinaceous Amazons, are so rare that they are considered priceless.

Daoud is charged with assisting her son in his smuggling operations. She is also charged with smuggling an elephant ivory tusk and a parrot feathered headdress into the country. Those items were discovered in her Monroe Center home while executing search warrants.

Silva and Daouds smuggling also violated U.S. Department of Agriculture quarantine requirements, posing a threat to the domestic poultry industry and other interests. The co-defendants failed to declare the imported species to the proper authorities, and took the animals from countries which dont allow export of their natural wildlife. They also imported the species into the United States without proper documentation from the Service.

From August 1989 through January 1992, while Silva was curator of birds at Loro Parque, Tenerife, on Spains Canary Islands, Daoud followed her sons direction and managed smuggling activities in the United States.

In the co-defendants indictments, Caseres is alleged to have supplied Silva and Daoud with most of the parrots smuggled during this conspiracy, and Ugalde is alleged to have been responsible for arranging the illegal off loading of 50 Hyacinth Macaws in Mexico, and smuggling them into the country.

Operation Renegade is the code name for this undercover international probe, which so far has led to convictions of 30 people for taking part in parrot smuggling and related wildlife law violations.

On November 29, a one-count indictment charged Silva with illegally selling two Queen of Bavaria Conures. This indictment is incorporated as count two of todays charges.

Todays indictment also charges Silva and others with violating the provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), an international treaty intended to protect various species of wildlife from extinction. Other charges include violations of United States wildlife protection statutes, including the Endangered Species Act and Lacy Act, as well as wildlife protection laws of several foreign countries.

Despite the fact that none of the species listed in the indictment are indigenous to this country, U.S. Attorney Burns said, "The United States takes its responsibilities under the Convention (CITES) very seriously. This indictment reflects the governments continued commitment to safeguarding and protecting our global communitys natural resources against those who would illegally take those riches to increase their personal wealth."

Counts 3 through 10, 14 and 15 of the indictment allege specific acts by Silva and Daoud, including their facilitating the transportation of, concealing, and possessing highly protected parrots knowing those birds had been smuggled into the country Silva is a reputed parrot expert and internationally known authority on the plight of these particular species of parrots. He has written several books, including "A Monograph of Endangered Parrots", and "A Monograph of Macaws and Conures". He has also written hundreds of articles concerning exotic parrots.

Hyacinth Macaws only occur naturally in Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay. It is believed that there are only 2,000 to 5,000 of the species remaining in the wild. Reports indicate that as many as 90 percent of smuggled parrots perish from their point of capture to final destination.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 530 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies. For further information about the programs and activities of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Great Lakes-Big Rivers Region, please visit our home page at: http://midwest.fws.gov

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