NEW YORK, N.Y. – A Guyana man allegedly attempted to smuggle dozens of birds into the U.S. using hair rollers.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection says its officers discovered 29 finches concealed in hair rollers inside the man’s baggage at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Sunday.
CBP says officers discovered and seized the finches during a secondary baggage examination after the 26-year-old man arrived on a flight from Georgetown, Guyana.
Agriculture specialists quarantined the finches and turned them over to U.S. Department of Agriculture Veterinary Services, according to CBP.
“The smuggling of these birds in hair curlers shows the horror of wildlife trafficking,” said Ryan Noel, Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement.
The smuggler, who was headed to New Jersey, was not criminally charged, but CBP say a $300 civil penalty was issued before the man was placed on a Guyana-bound flight on Monday.
Officials say improperly importing birds to the U.S. poses a potential threat of introducing diseases like the bird flu to the country’s poultry industry.
During an outbreak of bird flu in 2015, officials say more than 50 million commercial turkeys and laying hens died in the U.S. or were culled to stop the spread of the disease. The losses were estimated at more than $1 billion, and the economic impact was much greater as more than 50 poultry trading partners imposed partial to full bans on U.S. poultry imports.
During a typical day last year, CBP says its agriculture specialists across the nation seized 3,091 prohibited plant, meat, animal byproducts, and soil, and intercepted 250 insect pests at U.S. ports of entry.
“Customs and Border Protection officers and agriculture specialists face a very complex and challenging task and that is to protect our nation, our citizens, our agricultural resources and our economic security, and they meet that challenge with extraordinary commitment and vigilance,” said Marty C. Raybon, Acting Director of Field Operations for CBP’s New York Field Office.