The cries lead Miami airport officials to a bag of smuggled Amazon parrot eggs. Here’s how most chicks survived.


The 24 bright green baby parrots began crowing and shaking their heads as soon as someone approached the large cage that has been their home since they were hatched in March.

Central American natives seized from smugglers at Miami International Airport are being raised by conservation groups. Rare Species Greenhouse Foundation – Round-the-clock approach involving hand-feeding five times a day in a room filled with large cages.

At just nine weeks old, these parrots have already survived the harrowing journey after being kidnapped from their forest nests. Now they are almost fully feathered, and staff have begun transitioning from special formulations to a diet of food pellets and fruit.

parrot trafficking
A juvenile yellow-necked Amazon parrot is carried in a plastic tub at the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation in Loxahatchie, Florida, Friday, May 19, 2023.

Rebecca Blackwell/AP

“Are you ready to meet the kids?” Florida International University professor and foundation director Paul Leiro told visitors Friday at the small building behind the sprawling home in the rural town of Loxahatchee near West Palm Beach. I asked this while guiding him.

“They are hand-fed babies,” he said, as the chicks squealed and he looked curiously at the visitors. “They have never met their mom and dad and have been raised by us since they hatched.”

Newly hatched chicks faintly chirping in their carry-on bags at Miami Airport caught the attention of U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. According to a criminal complaint filed in Miami federal district court, passenger Zu Ta Wu had just arrived on TACA Flight 392 from Managua, Nicaragua, on March 23 and had been taken to Miami to return to Taiwan. It is said that he had changed flights at

Officers stopped Mr. Wu at the checkpoint. He was asked about the noise he heard from his bag, which Leiro later described as a “sophisticated” temperature-controlled cooler.

According to the lawsuit, Mr Wu put his hand inside, pulled out a small bag, and showed the eggs to the police. When the police looked inside, they saw more eggs and a small, newly hatched wingless bird.

According to the complaint, the man told police he had 29 eggs and did not have the paperwork to transport the birds.

Wu was arrested and pleaded guilty to charges of smuggling birds into the United States on May 5. He could face up to 20 years in prison when sentenced on August 1.

Court records did not list a lawyer representing her, but Wu told investigators through a Mandarin interpreter that a friend had paid her to travel from Taiwan to Nicaragua to retrieve the eggs. He denied knowing what kind of birds they were.

Officers received the bag and contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. By that time, eight birds had already hatched or were in the process of hatching.

It didn’t take long for federal officials to contact Leiro.

“They didn’t know what these were, so they wanted my advice on it,” Leiro said. Baby parrots are difficult to identify because they do not have wings.

He helped set up makeshift incubators in the USDA aviary at the airport to save hatchling parrots.

The next day, USDA veterinarian Dr. Stacey McFarlane and other staff who had originally tended the birds and eggs at the airport delivered the baby parrots and the rest of the eggs to Leiro’s greenhouse.

“At that point we were leaving for the race,” he said. “When we had this many eggs, the chicks hatched, the incubators were running, and it was all over, 26 out of 29 eggs hatched and 24 out of 26 chicks survived.”

USDA regulations require the birds to be quarantined for 45 days, requiring Leiro and her team to rub in and out of the room.

But I still didn’t know which of the 360 ​​parrots I was dealing with.

A forensic team at Florida International extracted DNA samples from egg shells and dead birds to identify the species. The researchers found that the 24 parrots that survived were born in eight or nine clutches, including two species: a yellow-necked Amazon and a red-necked Amazon.

Both birds are beautiful and temperamental, Leiro said, making them popular in the human trafficking and cage industry.

The human trafficking pipeline from Central America is well established and has been going on for years, he said.

“In fact, the biggest threat to parrots worldwide is the combination of habitat loss and trafficking,” Leiro said, adding that about 90% of eggs are poached for the illegal parrot trade.

BirdLife International has listed the Amazonian yellow-billed Amazon as ‘Endangered’, with population numbers between 1,000 and 2,500 individuals in the wild. The Amazon of the Red Kingdom is also said to be declining in population.

“Most of these trafficking cases end in tragedy,” Leiro said. “The fact that the chicks hatched on the first day of his trip from Managua to Miami shows that if he had actually made it to his destination, Taiwan, it is very unlikely that he would have survived. It would have been 24 more.” The travel time amounts to 36 hours. ”

Leiro now faces the challenge of finding a permanent home for the bird, which can live 60, 70, or more years. He said he is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a plan to “free-fly birds and help species recover in the wild.”

“Parrots live long lives. They are sentient creatures. They are very intelligent and very social, so they deserve a chance,” he said. “The question will be where will they end up? What will their journey be like? It’s just beginning.”

according to WWFMany parrots are legal and kept as pets, but “the parrot trade also has a dark side.”

“Some birds are taken from their wild habitats and smuggled into market centers for sale to unsuspecting customers,” the WWF said. are doing.

Rare animal smuggling is big business in Guatemala, and small animals are often smuggled on public transport. BBC News reported. Police searching the bus in 2021 found a bag containing several baby parrots and were taken to a veterinary hospital for recovery.

Travelers in other parts of the world have been arrested for trying to smuggle parrots and other rare birds.

In 2020, Dozens of smuggled parrots A plastic bottle was found on a ship docked in Indonesia.

In 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents and agricultural experts at JFK airport inspected travelers’ handbags, Found 20 live finches Housed in a tubular housing.

In 2015, Indonesian police said a man had packed the bags of nearly 20 people. Sulphur-crested cockatiel, an endangered species I tried to sneak through customs in a plastic bottle.


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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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