Photo Courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection
The birds were concealed in hair curlers and tucked into the passengers’ socks.
By Michael V. Cusenza
Two travelers were recently nabbed at John F. Kennedy International Airport for allegedly smuggling more than two-dozen live finches, federal officials announced.
According to court documents, Victor Benjamin and Insaf Ali arrived last Wednesday at JFK from Georgetown, Guyana, and were each selected for a Customs examination. The inspection revealed that both passengers possessed live finches—small, seed-eating birds—concealed in hair curlers and tucked into their socks. In total, 26 finches were found.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Gabriel Harper noted that both Benjamin and Ali stated on their Customs and Border Protection declarations that they were entering the country “without any wildlife.” Additionally, neither Benjamin nor Ali applied for permits authorizing the importation of the birds into the United States.
According to Harper, some people import finches to enter them in singing competitions in Queens and Brooklyn. Many who attend the contests wager on the birds.
“Although certain species of finch are available in the United States, species from Guyana are believed to sing better and are therefore more highly sought after,” Harper added. “An individual willing to smuggle finches into the United States from Guyana can earn a large profit by selling these birds in the New York area.”