Autopsy results are still expected for the over 700 African Grey parrots from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that died on a flight to Durban in the midst of an ownership dispute, bird dealer Hennie Matthews said on Friday.
"Autopsies have been done," said Matthews, who had launched an urgent application to get the 760 birds from another dealer Gideon Fourie, in lieu of money he claims 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 held in January.
In the meantime, it also ordered that Matthews become the custodian of the birds, and that he deposit a R2-million guarantee with Moodie's lawyers to cover their value.
However, before the court could decide whether the rightful owner was Fourie or Moodie, the birds died on a 1time flight from Johannesburg to Durban before Christmas.
They were to have been transported to a facility in Umhlanga until the matter was resolved.
Comment from a 1time spokesperson was not immediately available, but Moodie told Sapa that Fourie had only travelled to the DRC to inspect the birds on his behalf and that he, Moodie, was the owner of the birds and had the paperwork to prove it.
Fourie concurs with this, but Matthews said: "That is what the whole court case is about. They have got to prove it first."
Matthews believes he is also not liable for the financial loss resulting from the birds' deaths because his responsibility only began when they arrived in Durban, and by then they were dead. He now believes 1time may be responsible for their death.
Moodie said the birds are captured in the wild in the DRC by landowners and sold to people such as himself for export.
He said all his permits were in order and that the only dispute was who owned the birds as Matthews tries to get his money back.
He said the parrots in question are popular and can sell for up to R6000 each.