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Customs: 93 exotic birds, 50 living, found in man's luggage in Los Angeles

By Ben Hooper
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Customs: 93 exotic birds, 50 living, found in man's luggage in Los Angeles
Customs officials at Los Angeles International Airport found 43 dead exotic birds and 50 living birds in a traveler's luggage, but only eight of the birds ultimately survived. Photo by U.S. Customs and Border Protection

May 4 (UPI) -- Customs officials in Los Angeles said a man arriving from Vietnam was found to be concealing 93 exotic birds in his luggage -- 50 of them alive.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said officers and Agriculture Specialists discovered the birds in the luggage of a U.S. citizen who arrived at Los Angeles International Airport from Ho Chi Minh City March 24 after an X-ray scan of his bags revealed anomalies.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigators said 50 of the birds were alive when the man arrived in the United States, but only eight of the avians ultimately survived.

The man was arrested after officials determined some of the birds were endangered species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The man is facing a felony charge of smuggling goods into the United States.

The suspect was released on bond Wednesday after appearing before a judge. He is due back in court June 5.

"I would like to commend the diligence and vigilance of our CBP Officers and Agriculture Specialists. Smuggling birds is especially dangerous due to the potential for exposure to the highly pathogenic avian influenza," said Mitchell Merriam, Los Angeles Area Port Director. "It is the inter-agency partnership between CBP and FWS that helps counter and combat illegal wildlife trafficking."

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"Importing certain illegal wildlife, such as these avian species, can not only introduce communicable animal diseases into the United States, but they can also pose a threat to our local ecosystem," said Jill Birchell, FWS Special Agent in Charge

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