Passenger caught smuggling 70 live finches into US at New York airport

A passenger flying into New York from South America was caught bringing 70 live birds in a carry-on bag into John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday.

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The unidentified passenger, who flew in from Georgetown, Guyana, was caught by U.S. Customs and Border Protection upon deplaning at the New York City airport.

The birds were found to be transported inside hair rollers in a black duffle bag, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers said in a statement.

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The finches were taken from the passenger, detained under quarantine and turned over to the United States Department of Veterinary Services.

“CBP Agriculture Specialists are the first line of defense to prevent the introduction of animal diseases that have the potential to cause significant damage to the nation’s agricultural economy,” said Troy Miller, Director, Field Operations, New York Field Office.

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Birds can carry a number of potentially fatal diseases and parasites that can spread to humans and other animals. In 2015, the U.S. had a Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, or bird flu, outbreak that resulted in the culling of 50 million commercial turkeys and chickens. The spread also reportedly caused $850 million in damages.