Officials seized 24 green baby parrots from a smuggler at Miami International Airport, which are now under the care of the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation. The birds are nine weeks old now and they are recovering after being taken from their nests in a forest.
The staff at the foundation have started introducing the birds to a diet of food pellets and fruits. The birds are given hand-feedings and they have never seen their parents. The staff have been their providers since the hatching.
The birds were discovered by authorities in a carry-on bag at the Miami airport when they heard unusual chirping sounds coming from the luggage. The suspicions were flagged to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer. The passenger, Szu Ta Wu, had landed from Managua, Nicaragua, and was connecting flights in Miami to return home to Taiwan.
The officer peeked inside the bag and found 29 eggs. Wu did not have the proper documentation to carry the birds and he was arrested. He pleaded guilty to charges of smuggling birds into the United States and he now faces up to 20 years in prison.
Wu explained to officials that a friend had paid him to travel from Taiwan to Nicaragua to get the eggs.
The officer seized the bag and informed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. At that time, eight of the birds had already hatched or were just about to be hatched.
The following day, Dr. Stacy McFarlane, a USDA veterinarian who examined the birds and eggs at the airport, delivered the baby parrots and remaining eggs to a conservatory.
“At that point, we were off to the races,” he said. “We’ve got all these eggs, the chicks are hatching, the incubator’s running and by the time it was all said and done, we hatched 26 of the 29 eggs, and 24 of the 26 chicks survived.”
USDA regulations deem it necessary for the birds to be quarantined for 45 days.
Officials were still clueless about the breed of the birds. A forensics team at Florida International took DNA samples from the eggshells to accurately identify the birds. They discovered the “24 surviving parrots were from eight or nine clutches and included two species — the yellow-naped Amazon and the red-lored Amazon.”
“In fact, the biggest threat to parrots globally is a combination of habitat loss and trafficking,” Reillo said, adding that about 90 percent of eggs are poached for illegal parrot trade.
These birds have a long life span of 60-70 years so the team at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services are scrambling to find a permanent home.