NEW YORK (NewsNation Now) — A man from Guyana did not make it past John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport Sunday after 29 live finches were found in his baggage. The birds were hidden inside several colorful hair rollers.
The 26-year-old was traveling from Georgetown, Guyana to New Jersey when U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) discovered the finches during a secondary baggage examination. In a news release, CBP said he was not criminally charged, but will have to pay a $300 civil penalty. He was put on a plane back to Guyana on Monday.
The finches were quarantined and put in the care of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Veterinary Services.
The reason federal agencies take swift action in situations like this is because of the risk of introducing the bird flu into the U.S. poultry industry.
The industry was dealt a big blow during a 2015 outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). According to the United States Department of Agriculture, more than 50 million chickens and turkeys in the U.S. died or were intentionally killed to stop the spread of the disease. They said that is about 12% of the country’s egg-laying population and 8% of the estimated turkeys raised for meat. As for the economic impact, losses were estimated at more than $1 billion.
CBP said during a regular day in 2020, they seized 3,091 prohibited plant, meat, animal byproducts, and soil, and intercepted 250 insect pests at U.S. ports of entry nationwide.
CBP could not say why the birds were being brought into the country, but previous news reports indicate finches have been smuggled and sold for bird singing competitions.