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Conservationist Sentenced For Smuggling Rare Birds

November 19, 1996

CHICAGO (AP) _ A man once hailed as an eloquent spokesman for the world’s dwindling parrot population was sentenced Monday to more than six years in prison for smuggling $1.36 million in rare birds and mammals.

Tony Silva also was fined $100,000.

``All of this was for personal greed,″ said Judge Elaine Bucklo as she sentenced Silva to 82 months in prison. ``There cannot be any excuse for your behavior.″

Prosecutors said Monday that Silva himself may be responsible for the demise of 5 percent to 10 percent of the world’s population of one rare bird, the large-tailed, cobalt-blue hyacinth macaw. Testimony indicated there may be as few as 2,000 hyacinth macaws remaining in the wild.

``He moved these species closer to extinction,″ Assistant U.S. Attorney Sergio Acosta said.

Silva’s mother, Gila Daoud, was sentenced to 27 months for assisting in the filing of a false tax return. Prosecutors said she helped her son arrange to transport the animals.

Silva, 35, earlier pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to smuggle wildlife and tax evasion.

His arrest was a shock to many in the conservation community, who were familiar with books and articles he had written seeking protection for parrots.

Silva spoke and wrote widely, and in 1989 was named curator of birds at one of the world’s largest rare bird sanctuaries, Loro Parque in the Canary Islands.

But prosecutors say Silva recognized the monetary value of the rare birds he studied.

Bucklo said Silva was responsible for smuggling more than 300 birds and seven monkeys worth a total of $1,356,900. Many of the birds died before they reached their destination, Bucklo said.

In 1994, Silva, his mother, and several associates were indicted as part of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife operation.

Silva mingled birds that were legal to import with those that weren’t, then slipped the illegal birds, which included blue-fronted Amazons, golden conures, and several other rare species, past wildlife officials in the Chicago area.

Even while at the Canary Island refuge, Silva and his mother kept trying to illegally import hyacinth macaws to the United States from Paraguay, prosecutors charged.

At his sentencing, Silva argued unsuccessfully that he had been entrapped, and that the statute of limitations had passed for some of the charges.

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