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A
Agencies
January 15, 2021

Australia to kill pigeon that crossed Pacific from US state

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A
Agencies
January 15, 2021

MELBOURNE: A racing pigeon has survived an extraordinary 13,000-kilometre Pacific Ocean crossing from the United States to find a new home in Australia. Now authorities consider the bird a quarantine risk and plan to kill it. Kevin Celli-Bird said on Thursday he discovered the exhausted bird that arrived in his Melbourne backyard on December 26 had disappeared from a race in the US state of Oregon on October 29.

Experts suspect the pigeon that Celli-Bird has named Joe, after the US president-elect, hitched a ride on a cargo ship to cross the Pacific.

Joe’s feat has attracted the attention of the Australian media but also of the notoriously strict Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service.

Celli-Bird said quarantine authorities called him on Thursday to ask him to catch the bird.

“They say if it is from America, then they’re concerned about bird diseases,” he said. “They wanted to know if I could help them out. I said, ’To be honest, I can’t catch it. I can get within 500 mil (millimetres or 20 inches) of it and then it moves.’”

He said quarantine authorities were now considering contracting a professional bird catcher.

The Agriculture Department, which is responsible for biosecurity, said the pigeon was “not permitted to remain in Australia” because it “could compromise Australia’s food security and our wild bird populations”.

“It poses a direct biosecurity risk to Australian bird life and our poultry industry,” a department statement said.

In 2015, the government threatened to euthanise two Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo, after they were smuggled into the country by Hollywood star Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard.

Faced with a 50-hour deadline to leave Australia, the dogs made it out in a chartered jet.

Pigeons are an unusual sight in Celli-Bird’s backyard in suburban Officer, where Australian native doves are far more common.

“It rocked up at our place on Boxing Day. 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,” Celli-Bird said.

“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,” he added.