Dead parrots - 1time 'not to blame'
Johannesburg - It was not the airline's fault that over 700 African Grey parrots from the Democratic Republic of Congo had died on a flight to Durban, 1time Airline said on Friday.
"1time Airline would like to make it clear that the suspected cause of death stated as being by inhalation of noxious gases or lack of oxygen, is a clear indication that the airline is not responsible for their demise," the airline said in a statement.
The hold in which the birds and a puppy were transported, was pressurised and ventilated with the exact same air as the cabin, it said.
"Not only were our passengers all in perfect condition, but the puppy was delivered safely and without harm and we are adamant that there have been undisclosed events leading to the transportation that need to be investigated."
1time said it was not possible to have noxious gas exposure in hold 1.
The airline company said it was committed to get to the bottom of what caused the death of the consignment of birds, and was co-operating closely with experts at the World Parrot Trust in this regard.
"Understanding what happened is important to the airline and its people, as something like this should never happen again.
"We have put into place a policy to ensure that, in future, no wild animal is transported without prior arrangement or management intervention and we no longer transport livestock en-masse by restricting each consignment to a maximum of four animals," said 1time's chief executive officer Rodney James.
However, James said everyone at 1time was saddened by the loss of the birds.
"At no time were our staff given information about the origin or species of the birds and we can assure all that had we known these were adult wild African Grey birds, we would have declined.
"It was a cargo consignment that was managed by Express Air Services and a consignment over which we had no need to demand more information, other than it was 500kg of live birds. The paperwork was all in order and acceptable."
Autopsy results were still expected for the 760 African Grey parrots in the midst of an ownership dispute, bird dealer Hennie Matthews said on Friday.
"Autopsies have been done," said Matthews, who launched an urgent application to get the 760 birds from another dealer Gideon Fourie, in lieu of money he claimed Fourie owes him.
But another dealer, Ben Moodie, claimed the birds were actually his, not Fourie's, and wanted them back.
The High Court in Johannesburg, sitting in Pretoria, received Matthews' urgent application in December and ordered that as the matter was not urgent, a full hearing would be held in January.
In the meantime, it also ordered that Matthews become the custodian of the birds, and that he deposit a R2m guarantee with Moodie's lawyers to cover their value.