Tag Archives: Madrid

Madrid wants to get rid of parakeets, now threatening native species

The thousands of bright green monk parakeets that screech through Madrid’s skies could soon be gone as the city council has unveiled a plan to reduce their number, now estimated at 12.000.

Credit: Wikipedia Commons

The parakeets, also known as Argentine parrots, are native to South America, but many were kept as pets in Spain before ownership became illegal in 2011. Many of them escaped, or were released from captivity, and are now prolific in Madrid, as well as a number of other areas in Spain (and, to a lesser extent, other cities in Europe).

The growing population brings a set of problems to the city. The birds, considered an invasive species in Spain, are noisy, messy, and are certainly ruffling the feathers of local residents, who have already filed 197 complaints about the birds this year, and 209 in 2018.

The birds also build nests that can reach a whopping 200 kilograms (441 lb), which could pose a threat to Madrid’s citizens if they were to fall, authorities claim. The parakeets are also thought to threaten biodiversity in the city by competing for food, and damaging vegetation while building their nests.

The city authorities are working with the Spanish Ornithological Society, SEO Birdlife, and have announced plans to begin “humane slaughter” and egg sterilization over the coming months. Borja Carabante, the council’s environmental representative, said the birds “have become a worry for people and we’ve had a lot of complaints.”

Carabante says the plan will be carried out in accordance with the animal welfare law, but the exact details have yet to be finalized. The environmental head explained that not all of the monk parakeets in Madrid will be culled, as stipulated by the law, but says that a population of up to 600 birds “would cause minimal or acceptable” damage.

Santiago Soria, head of the council’s Biodiversity and Inventory Service, said that the objective was not to eliminate the whole parrot population, but explained that without intervention it would continue to grow. “The spirit of the law is to do no damage to our wildlife,” Soria told media.

The southern cities of Malaga and Seville have also proposed measures to cull their parakeet populations. But such moves have been met with strong opposition from animal rights groups, who argue that numbers can be controlled through non-lethal methods such as contraception.

In Argentina, where they originally come from, parakeets are a common sight in many of the country’s main cities such as Buenos Aires. They are easily spotted in public parks where they nest, and they are sold as pets in pet shops.

Paris, Madrid, Athens, Mexico City to ban all diesels by 2025, mayors announce

Four major cities are taking up the fight on air pollution by clamping down on diesel engines. The ban should come into full effect by the middle of the next decade.

Image from the Public Domain.

Diesel engines will be banned from Paris, Mexico City, Madrid, and Athens sometime in the next ten years to promote cleaner transport such as alternative vehicle use or old-fashioned walking and cycling. The announcement was made at the C40 conference in Mexico.

Diesels were originally promoted by governments as test runs showed they released lower levels of CO2 and other harmful emissions. But, this type of engine has (rightfully) come under a lot of flak recently, particularly in urban areas, after it became apparent that manufacturers faked the results (you can read about it here). They have been linked to nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) emissions, which can build up in huge quantities in cities.

Fine PM, such as PM2.5, can pass into the bloodstream and contribute to heart or lung conditions (both acute and chronic), even death. At ground levels, NOx emissions can lead to ozone build-ups, causing breathing difficulties even for those without a history of respiratory problems. The WHO estimates that around three million people each year die due to exposure to outdoor air pollution.

In some cases, such as London, citizen groups have taken matters into their own hands. Environmental groups have championed their case and appealed to courts for clean air standards and regulations. Mayor Sadiq Khan has proposed an expansion of the planned Ultra-Low Emissions Zone, and campaigners are pushing for him to phase out all diesels from London by 2025.

“In the UK, London’s mayor is considering bolder action than his predecessor, proposing an expansion to the planned Ultra-Low Emission Zone. This is welcome but we want him to go further and faster,” said ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews.
“And it’s not just London that has this problem, we need a national network of clean air zones so that the problem is not simply pushed elsewhere.”

Keen on preventing such troubles at-home, mayors from four other cities with long-standing air pollution problems have pledged to use their executive power to limit the use of diesel engines. The four mayors declared that they would ban all diesel vehicles by 2025 and “commit to doing everything in their power to incentivize the use of electric, hydrogen and hybrid vehicles”.

“It is no secret that in Mexico City, we grapple with the twin problems of air pollution and traffic,” said the city’s mayor, Miguel Ángel Mancera.

“By expanding alternative transportation options like our Bus Rapid Transport and subway systems, while also investing in cycling infrastructure, we are working to ease congestion in our roadways and our lungs.”

Paris has already laid down some groundwork on the issue. Cars registered before 1997 are already banned from entering the city. The Champs-Élysées is closed to traffic once every month, and a 3-km long stretch on the Seine — once a two-lane motorway — has been recently pedestrianized. The city’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, said that they will continue to “progressively ban the most polluting vehicles from the roads” of Paris.

“Our ambition is clear and we have started to roll it out: we want to ban diesel from our city, following the model of Tokyo, which has already done the same.”

Manuel Carmena, Madrid’s mayor, has spoken in support of cleaning city air saying it’s intimately tied with our efforts of tackling climate change. All in all, these four mayors seem to be set on cleaning the air, and they have their sights set on diesels.

Which is a big deal, because if major cities go down this road, they will set a powerful precedent for others to follow suit. Carmakers, too, are likely to understand this and push for the development of hybrid and electric cars even more than before. Hopefully, this time somebody will double-check their results before the WHO has to issue another grisly statistic.