A case of unwanted cargo is causing a stir in Australia after a racing pigeon allegedly hitched a ride on a freight liner from the US West Coast, risking euthanasia because of the biosecurity hazard it poses, agricultural officials have said.
However, animal rights activists have taken it upon themselves to fend for the pigeon which has completed its 13 000 kilometre journey.
Melbourne resident Kevin Celli-Bird (the surname is no joke) said he had found the pigeon in his backyard on Boxing Day.
He told Associated Press: “I’ve got a fountain in the backyard and it was having a drink and a wash. He was pretty emaciated so I crushed up a dry biscuit and left it out there for him.
“Next day, he rocked back up at our water feature, so I wandered out to have a look at him because he was fairly weak and he didn’t seem that afraid of me and I saw he had a blue band on his leg. Obviously he belongs to someone, so I managed to catch him.”
Celli-Bird added that he had since found out that the pigeon, named Joe after the US President elect, belonged to an owner in Montgomery, Alabama, and had disappeared from a race held in Oregon on October 29.
He also said that because the pigeon had regained its strength, he could no longer catch it and had set it free again.
Australian authorities in the meantime have said they will arrange for a bird catcher.
Joe was “not permitted to remain in Australia for phytosanitary safety reasons, the agriculture department said.
“It could compromise Australia’s food security and our wild bird populations as it poses a direct biosecurity risk to Australian bird life and our poultry industry.”
While the bird-disease threat around Joe is now making national headlines, with animal rights activists clamouring that Joe should be repatriated, Australian National Pigeon Association secretary, Brad Turner, said it was not uncommon for pigeons to hitch rides to antipodean shores.
Apparently it happens regularly on inbound lines from China.
All the same though, he said Joe should be destroyed, no matter how harsh it sounded, because of fear that he could carry exotic diseases, undermining Australia’s quarantine regime applicable to live, imported goods.