ONEhas survived an extraordinary 8,000 km Pacific voyage from the United States to find a new home in Australia. Authorities now consider the bird a quarantine risk and plan to kill it.
Kevin Celli-Bird said on Thursday that 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 that the pigeon that Celli-Bird has called Joe, the elected US president, rode a cargo ship to cross the Pacific.
Joe’s achievement has attracted the attention of the Australian media, but also 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’s from America, then they’re worried about bird diseases,” he said. “They wanted to know if I could help them. I said, ‘To be honest, I can not catch it. I can get within 500 miles (millimeters or 20 inches) of it, and then it moves.'”
He said quarantine authorities were now considering contracting with a professional bird catcher.
The Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for biosafety, said the pigeon “should not remain in Australia” because it “could compromise Australia’s food security and our wild bird populations.”
“This poses a direct biosecurity risk to Australian bird life and our poultry industry,” a department statement said.
In 2015, the government threatened to kill 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 got out in a chartered jet plane.
Pigeons are an unusual sight in Celli-Bird’s backyard in suburban officers, where Australian native pigeons are far more common.
“It shook us up on Boxing Day. I have a fountain in the backyard and it drank and a wash. He was pretty emaciated so I crushed a dry biscuit and left it out there for him,” Celli-Bird said.
“The next day he tipped back on our water feature so I walked out to look at him because he was pretty weak and he did not seem to be afraid of me and I saw that he had a blue band on his leg. Of course he belongs to someone, so I managed to catch him, “he added.
Celli-Bird, who says he is not interested in birds “except for my last name”, said he could no longer catch pigeons with his bare hands once it had regained its strength.
He said the Oklahoma-based American Racing Pigeon Union had confirmed that Joe was registered with an owner in Montgomery, Alabama.
Celli-Bird said he had tried to contact the owner but so far had not been able to get through.
The bird spends every day in the backyard and sometimes sits side by side with a native pigeon on a pergola. Celli-Bird has fed that pigeon feed within a few days of its arrival.
“I think he just decided that since I’ve given him some food and he has a place to drink, it’s home,” he said.
Australian National Pigeon Association secretary Brad Turner said he had heard of cases of Chinese racing pigeons reaching the west coast of Australia aboard cargo ships, a much shorter voyage.
Turner said there were genuine fears that pigeons from the United States could carry exotic diseases, and he agreed that Joe should be destroyed.
“Even if it sounds harsh to the normal person – they would hear it and go, ‘this is cruel’ and everything else – I would think you would find that AQIS and that kind of people would give their wholehearted support to the idea, Said Turner, referring to the quarantine service.
It is claimed that the largest long-haul flight recorded by a pigeon is one that started at Arras in France and ended in Saigon, Vietnam, back in 1931, according to pigeonpedia.com. The distance was 11,600 kilometers and took 24 days.
There are some known occurrences of long-haul flights, but whether these are one-time performances performed by marathon runners in the pigeon world, or they are holdings that can be achieved by the average pigeon, is not known.