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Paris closes its historical bird market to prevent trafficking

Canaries, parakeets and zebra finches will no longer chirp from small cages in the shadow of Notre-Dame cathedral, after Paris voted to close its 19th-century bird market, deeming it inappropriate for this day and age.

Held on Sundays, the market on the Ile de la Cite islet in the River Seine has been a magnet for tourists and Parisians with children for decades, but an animal rights group's campaign against it and plans to renovate the site led to a city council decision to close it.

"The market had become the epicenter of bird trafficking in the Paris region, including of endangered birds," Paris deputy mayor Christophe Najdovksi told Reuters.

"A second reason for closing it is that the conditions in which the birds are presented are no longer acceptable," he said.

Dating from 1808, the bird market is expected to close when the city completes renovation of the flower market hall, with historical cast-iron awnings, on the same spot in 2023-25.

Until then, bird lovers can still buy a parakeet for 10 euros ($12) or canaries and other songbirds for 25 euros ($31).

The city said 13 people have a license to sell birds at the market but only seven use it, and most of them also sell other things like pet supplies.

"In coming months, we will help the bird sellers transition towards a new business model," Najdovski said.

Albert Badalamenti, who has been selling birds at the market for 38 years, acknowledged that some vendors were not respecting the rules. But he said it was up to police to enforce those.

Besides, he said, all the birds they sell can only survive in cages, where they are given feed and vitamins to thrive. 

"They'll fly, but how will they feed themselves? They're not meant for life outdoors," he said. 

With his wife Cecilia, also a bird enthusiast, Badalamenti has built an aviary north of Paris where he houses hundreds of birds, from big parakeets to doves and canaries. 

The City Hall vowed to help vendors like Badalamenti to find alternative livelihood.

"What I fear is bankruptcy. What are we going to do with all this stock?" 

Animal rights activist Amandine Sanvisens of animal rights group Paris Animaux Zoopolis said the bird market closure is long overdue.

"Animals are not merchandise," she said. "They should not be sold like shoes or handbags."

(Source: Reuters)

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