NEW YORK (AFP) – Customs officials at JFK Airport in New York City found 35 live finches strapped to a man’s jacket and ankles as he attempted to smuggle them into the country for competitions singing, federal prosecutors recently said.
Research found the man was carrying dozens of small, cylindrical vessels with mesh-covered openings, allowing the birds inside to breathe, according to photos posted online.
About a dozen containers, made from curlers, were strapped inside his jacket, while the rest were wrapped around his ankles.
When questioned, the man said he was offered $ 3,000 to transport the birds, including $ 500 before leaving Guyana’s capital Georgetown. He was to receive the balance upon delivery to the United States (US).
Finches are prized for their cheerful and melodious song, with singing contests regularly held in parts of the New York boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn that include betting.
A winning finch can be worth more than $ 10,000, according to a US Fish and Wildlife Service special agent in the document recently released by prosecutors.
Guyana’s finches are particularly in demand because of their superior singing abilities.
The man was released on $ 25,000 bail, documents show.
Around the world, authorities seized 20,762 wild animals in 2017, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, citing the latest available figure.