Thu, Nov 04, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Parrots put down after seizure at airport

PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES They're rather cute birds, but they were smuggled from a country considered to be vulnerable to the bird-flu virus , so customs destroyed them

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Five of 28 parrots smuggled by an Indonesian traveler into Taiwan wait in a cage before being destroyed as a precaution to stop the spread of bird flu.

PHOTO: CHU PEI-TEH, TAIPEI TIMES

Protected parrots smuggled from Bali by an Indonesian traveler who arrived in Taipei on Tuesday were destroyed yesterday in order to guard against the spread of bird flu, the Council of Agriculture said yesterday.

Council officials said that on Tuesday evening, customs officers at CKS International Airport discovered 28 parrots hidden in plastic pipes in baggage belonging to a traveler surnamed Sugiharto.

Suspected of violating the Statute for Prevention and Control of Infectious Animal Disease (動物傳染病防治條例), Sugiharto was detained by police.

The seizure is the first case involving travelers smuggling birds from countries since the outbreak of bird flu earlier this year. Since then, the council's Animals and Plants Inspection and Quarantine Bureau has banned the import of bird-related products from affected countries. The prohibition was applied to Indonesia on Jan. 29.

All Southeast Asian countries except Singapore and the Philippines are considered at-risk territories for bird flu.

Yesterday, the 28 parrots were destroyed by bureau officials.

"Samples taken from the parrots were sent to laboratories for further examination. Results of the tests will be available by the end of this week," said Hsiao Tsung-yao (蕭宗堯), a director at the bureau.

Taiwan remains an area unaffected by bird flu, but Hsiao yesterday reminded people of the risk of spreading the virus by smuggling bird-related products from affected countries.

Travelers smuggling such animals face a sentence of up to three years' imprisonment.

Hsiao also urged locals not to purchase bird-related products whose origins cannot be verified.

Bureau officials said that the nation's poultry farmers remain on high alert because a number of farms in central and southern parts of the country were affected by the less pathogenic H5N2 strain earlier this year.

Officials also urged local people to avoid visiting poultry farms when traveling to countries hit by bird flu.

They said the situation in Hong Kong remains critical after reports on Tuesday that a dead gray heron was found near the border with mainland China. The Hong Kong government said the bird was infected with the virus.

The virus is thought to have killed 12 people in Thailand and 20 in Vietnam this year. Health experts fear the disease will mutate into a form that can be transmitted between humans.

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