Guyanese passenger caught trying to smuggle live birds past NY airport, fined

The eight finches that were seized. (CBP image)
The eight finches that were seized. (CBP image)

A Guyanese citizen, who was reportedly smuggling eight live birds past the  U. S. Customs and Border Protection Officers (CBP) at the John F. Kennedy International Airport on June 5, was fined and had the birds seized.

According to the US CBP in a release on July 3, the Guyanese citizen, arrived on a flight from Georgetown and was inspected by CBP Officers.

“The CBP Officers conducted an examination of the traveler’s computer bag and discovered eight live finches concealed inside a hidden compartment. The passenger was escorted by CBP Officers to a private room to continue the inspection” said the CBP.

The passenger was further interviewed by CBP Agriculture Specialists who quarantined the eight seized finches and issued a $300 fine to the traveler.

It was outlined that the traveler was admitted to the United States.

“CBP’s Agriculture Specialists protect our country every day from pests and diseases, the introduction of an animal or plant borne pest or disease could have a devastating impact on America’s Agricultural industry” said Frank Russo, CBP Port Director, JFK International Airport.

Birds, including pet birds, are regulated since they can carry viral and bacterial diseases of concern including Avian Influenza, Newcastle Disease and Psittacosis.  They may also be subject to U.S. Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service regulations.

According the CBP, the seized birds were placed in a quarantine isolation crate and turned over to personnel from  U. S. Department of Agriculture, Veterinary Services.

In 2018, CBP at JFK has stopped six bird smuggling attempts, seizing a total of 114 birds.

The smuggling of finches is a criminal offence and in cases prior to this one persons who were caught smuggling this specific species were charged and fined.

Gabriel Harper of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, after investigating a complaint earlier this year, revealed that individuals keep finches to enter them in singing contests.

She posited further that “In such contests, often conducted in public areas like parks, two finches sing and a judge selects the bird determined to have the best voice.”

“Although certain species of finch are available in the United States, species from Guyana are believed to sing better and are therefore more highly sought after,” Harper said while outlining that those who attend the singing contests wager on the birds and a finch who wins can sell for US$5000 or more.



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