When it comes to animal smuggling, domestic pets like cats and dogs are usually at the top of the list, followed by various forms of wildlife like snakes and lizards, while even more unusual life forms from Shetland ponies to squirrels try to gatecrash the boarding system. But as 2018 draws to a close, finches are making a huge move to get to the top of the smuggling charts.
The latest instance involving that bird species took place at JFK airport in New York Saturday when customs personnel discovered 70 of those triangular-beaked tweeting wonders stashed away inside a set of hair rollers and curlers. That brings this year's tally of confiscated finches to 184 according to folks who track this sort of thing.
Still, the accused who tried to smuggle them in via a black duffel bag didn't try to explain away his situation by claiming they were support birds. Nope, the carrier from Guyana was more likely planning to make a lot of loot with them in the U.S. by entering the birds into a series of singing contests.
Apparently, there's a circuit of competitions involving melodic finches, that could see the owner of a prize-winning male finch walk out of the venue with a highly valued bird on his hands. Folks who track these sorts of competitions say that award-winning finches apparently can be sold for as high as $10,000.
But as easy on the ears as these acclaimed finches might be, American authorities aren't exactly crazy about having them on the mainland. US Customs and Border Protection believe that birds like finches smuggled from abroad could potentially be hazardous to crops or even carry strains of diseases like avian flu.
This potential threat to national security was nullified when border officials quarantined the finches before turning them over to veterinarians working for the federal Department of Agriculture. The passenger was not charged but kept in custody until a seat on a plane bound for Guyana became available.
Animal smuggling has increased with alarming regularity in 2018, including instances of a python hidden inside a computer as well as a woman trying to justify bringing a squirrel on board, calling it an emotional support animal.