NEW YORK CITY (WPIX) — Dozens of finches were found inside luggage inside John F. Kennedy International Airport for the second time in weeks, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said Tuesday. Officers found 40 finches inside a 36-year-old man’s baggage on Saturday after he flew in from Guyana, officials said. Nearly 30 finches were found in a man’s bag several weeks ago.
In Saturday’s incident. the man was not criminally charged. CBP assessed a $300 civil penalty and placed the man on a plane back to Guyana the same day.
The finches were quarantined and then turned them over to United States Department of Agriculture Veterinary Services. Black market finches can sell for between $3,000 and $5,000 per bird and are used in singing competitions held in parks in the New York City area, according to the New York Times.
Birds brought to the country can introduce animal diseases and “have the potential to cause significant damage to the nation’s agricultural economy,” said Marty Raybon, acting director of Field Operations for CBP’s New York Field Office. More than 50 million chickens and turkeys in the U.S. died or were intentionally killed in a 2015 outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
They said that is about 12% of the country’s egg-laying population and 8% of the estimated turkeys raised for meat. As for the economic impact, losses were estimated at more than $1 billion.