Local councils agree to control parakeet plague by shooting

The meeting in Malaga last Friday.
The meeting in Malaga last Friday. / SUR
  • The provincial government will carry out a public awareness campaign to explain why such drastic measures are necessary

The main local councils affected by the plague of monk parakeets agreed on Friday that the most appropriate, albeit unpopular, way of controlling the population is by shooting them with air rifles.

This was established at the meeting on Friday last week where the representatives of 14 local authorities got together with the Diputación (provincial government) and experts from the University of Malaga and the Junta de Andalucía.

Shooting was the technique used in Zaragoza, which is the only city in Spain where the pest has been totally wiped out.

Parakeets in Malaga

Parakeets in Malaga / Félix Palacios

The surge in breeding of the parakeets in Costa and inland towns threatens native species and causes noise and damage. There are also fears that the birds could damage crops in the area.

Following the meeting a formal application will be submitted to the regional ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Sustainable Development, which will then draw up a specific control plan based on the information from the experts at the University of Malaga.

The plan will be based on the one previously approved for Seville, although this was not carried out due to pressure from animal rights organisations. This document will contain different alternatives that could be used, including direct shooting, capture in nets and the removal of eggs.

Each local authority will then have to apply to put the plan into action, although the mayors at the meeting made a commitment to follow the same criteria.

In order to face the criticism from animal activists, the Diputación will run a parallel public awareness campaign to explain why it is necessary to adopt such drastic measures.

Antonio Román Muñoz, a Biology lecturer at the University of Malaga and ornithologist has been studying this species of parakeet for several decades. He pointed out that the methods used until now in an attempt to control numbers, especially the removal of nests, have not only failed but also been counterproductive, encouraging the birds to spread to other areas.

The parakeets have already caused damage to trees in the university's botanical garden and affected almond crops near the airport.

Experts from the departments of the Environment and Biodiversity at the Junta de Andalucía stressed that the monk parakeet is included in the Catalogue of Invasive Exotic Species which means that permission for the use of air rifles can be given.

Experts calculate that there are 6,000 monk parakeets in the province. Around 3,500 of these are in the city of Malaga the rest in mainly coastal towns, although they have recently started spreading inland to parts of the Guadalhorce valley and the Axarquía. There is also a small colony of ring-necked parakeets.