A 50-year-old Israeli traveler returning from Germany was stopped Tuesday afternoon at Ben Gurion Airport attempting to smuggle six live pigeons in his suitcase, the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement.
The pigeons are of a rare Uzbek species and are worth about €100 each. They were tied up inside three shoe boxes inside the man’s suitcase, which was tagged with a label showing it belonged to a disabled passenger in an attempt to avoid raising suspicion.
That plan did not work out, however, and the Agriculture Ministry and Tax Authority employees at the Israeli international airport were able to thwart the somewhat unusual smuggling attempt.
The inspectors concluded that the pigeons had been brought in without the mandatory veterinary health certificate, and had not undergone the necessary examinations required to import birds into Israel. The Agriculture Ministry statement said the birds posed a health threat to Israel’s citizens and its wildlife.
The passenger also failed to obtain an import license from the Veterinary Services at the Agriculture Ministry or approval from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, as required by law.
The inspectors also highlighted the inhumane conditions suffered by the pigeons during the flight. They were crammed into the small boxes and tied up in a net, without ventilation, water or food.
The man was detained and taken for questioning. He said his paperwork was lost on the way, but no record of an import license was found in the systems. A legal case has been filed against him.
The pigeons were immediately taken to a facility belonging to the Veterinary Services to receive food and water. After their recovery they are expected to be returned to Germany, after it was ascertained that they would be taken care of there.
“Animals arriving from abroad without the required health certificates and licensing might bring with them diseases which could endanger both public and animal health in Israel, and might even cause death,” said Tzvika Avni, chief veterinary doctor at Ben Gurion Airport. “The importation of birds without the required health certificates endangers public health by running the risk of spreading avian influenza, while also endangering the health of animals in Israel by running the risk of spreading avian influenza or Newcastle disease.”