US officials have returned 149 parrots and parakeets that were sedated, hidden and smuggled into the US from Mexico.
The birds will be returned to their native habitats in southern Mexico or kept for breeding purposes if veterinarians determine they cannot survive in the wild.
According to authorities, a thriving black market has been created for pet birds due to strict quarantine rules, partly in response to outbreaks of exotic Newcastle disease in California, with some of the birds fetching up to $1,000 apiece.
“This is all about money,” said Assistant US Attorney Anne Perry. “It’s all about getting around the quarantine, which can be very expensive.”
Smugglers routinely quiet birds with sedatives to stop them from making a noise. “This is the black market – they certainly aren’t using veterinary-approved methods,” said Lorraine Concha, an assistant special agent in charge for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego.