Chirping lead airport officials to bag filled with smuggled parrot eggs
A man who allegedly attempted to smuggle dozens of parrot eggs out of the United States faces 20 years in jail.
The 24 green baby parrots, snatched from their nests in a central American rainforest, were found in a cooler amongst the baggage of a suspected smuggler as he changed flight in Miami in March.
Now 9 weeks old and fully feathered, the birds began chirping and bobbing their heads the second anyone comes near their new home the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation where they five hand feedings a day in a room filled with large cages.
“They are hand-raised babies,” Paul Reillo, a Florida International University professor said, as the chicks squawked and looked inquisitively at the visitors. “They’ve never seen mom and dad; they’ve been raised by us since they hatched.”
It was the hatchlings’ faint chirping inside a carry-on bag at the Miami airport that brought them to the attention of a US Customs and Border Protection officer.
The passenger, Szu Ta Wu, had just arrived on TACA Airlines flight 392 from Managua, Nicaragua, on March 23, and was changing flights in Miami to return home to Taiwan, according to a criminal complaint filed in US District Court in Miami.
Officers stopped Wu at a checkpoint. He was asked about the sound coming from his bag, which Reillo later described as a “sophisticated” temperature controlled cooler.
Wu reached in and pulled out a smaller bag and showed the officer an egg, the complaint said. The officer then looked inside and saw more eggs and a tiny featherless bird that had just hatched.
He told the officer there were 29 eggs, and that he did not have documentation to transport the birds, according to the complaint.
Wu was arrested, and on May 5 pleaded guilty to charges of smuggling birds into the United States. He faces up to 20 years in prison when he’s sentenced August 1.
A lawyer who could speak on his behalf was not listed on court records, but Wu told investigators through a Mandarin interpreter that a friend had paid him to travel from Taiwan to Nicaragua to pick up the eggs. He denied knowing what kind of birds they were.