(AP Photo/Australian Customs Service, HO)
February 3, 2009 Melbourne, Australia CP
An Australian traveler was caught with two live pigeons stuffed in his pants following a trip to the Middle East, customs officials said Tuesday. The 23-year-old man was searched after authorities discovered two eggs in a vitamin container in his luggage, said Richard Janeczko, national investigations manager for the Customs Service
They found the pigeons wrapped in padded envelopes and held to each of the man's legs with a pair of tights, according to a statement released by the agency. Officials also seized seeds in his money belt and an undeclared eggplant.
The alleged bird smuggler, who arrived in Melbourne on Sunday on a flight from Dubai, was being questioned.
Australia has very strict quarantine regulations on the importation of wildlife, plants and food to protect health, agriculture and the environment of the isolated island nation.
Janeczko said the pigeons were not endangered and that the case _ as well as the birds, eggs and seeds _ had been turned over to the Quarantine Service to assess the health risk associated with bringing the birds into the country.
It was not immediately clear why the man was attempting to smuggle two ordinary pigeons, which can be found in any Australian town, into the country. The pigeons can be bought for $10 AUS a pair in any pet shop.
Charges of wildlife smuggling _ which carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of 110,000 Australian dollars ($70,430) _ could be brought against the man.
The Quarantine Service would not comment on the continuing investigation.
"It's an outrage," said Scott Johnson, a 57-year-old contractor from San Francisco who has no connection with this incident or Australia and should not have been quoted here. Sorry.
In a Feb. 1, 2009 photo (see above) released by the Australian Customs Service, the legs of the Australian man caught with his pants full of pigeons on arrival on an international flight from Dubai to Melbourne, Australia, are shown. Police were asking anyone who recognized the legs to contact them. The 23-year-old man arrived in Melbourne on Sunday, Feb. 1, 2009 and was questioned by Customs officials after two eggs and some seeds were found in a vitamin container in his luggage. A search of his body found the live pigeons wrapped in padded envelopes and held to the man's legs with a pair of tights.