In this photo provided by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, some of the 70 live finches hidden inside hair rollers found Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport are displayed. Authorities say a passenger arriving from Guyana had the songbirds in a duffel bag. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection via AP)
NEW YORK — Customs officials at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport say they found 70 live finches hidden inside hair rollers.
Authorities say a passenger arriving from Guyana on Saturday had the songbirds in a duffel bag.
The New York Times reports officials believe the birds were brought to the U.S. to participate in singing contests. Customs officials say people bet on how many times the finches chirp, and a winning male finch can sell for up to $10,000.
The birds were turned over to veterinarians to the U.S. Agriculture Department, and the passenger was sent back to Guyana.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection says bird smuggling could threaten agriculture through the possible spread of diseases such as bird flu.
Customs officers have seized about 184 finches this year.
In a shocking episode, more than 1,000 migratory birds were found dead under mysterious circumstances at Rajasthan’s Sambhar Salt Lake on Monday, November 11.
Located near Phulera in Jaipur, Sambhar Lake witnesses a vast number of winged visitors during the winter season. Tourists and ornithologists from across the world regularly visit the region as it plays host to various migratory species of birds including the Northern Shoveler, Green Bee-Eater, Cinnamon Teal coming from Siberia, north Asia and other places. As the winter season progresses, the forest department is running against time to identify and address the cause of such mass deaths.
While the carcasses were immediately buried, officials have sent samples of the birds’ visceral remains to the forensic science laboratory in Bhopal. Experts say no signs of bird flu were observed till now, and the likely contamination of water could be the trigger. Further examination of birds’ internal organs could help pinpoint the cause of death.
The death of these birds came to fore when a few ornithologists went to Sambhar Lake for photography on Sunday and were taken aback to see the dead birds across the lake. Veterinarians suspect water contamination or algae poisoning to be the primary reason behind the deaths, reports The Times of India.
While officials claim that the death toll is 1,500, the locals claim that the number of dead birds could be around 5,000. The dead bodies were found around a section of the Sambhar Salt Lake named Ratan Talab. Different species of waders and ducks, including the likes of pallas’ gull, ruddy shelduck, ruddy turnstone, gull-billed tern, redshanks, black-winged stilts, common coots, plovers, avocets, shovelers and sandpipers, were among the waterbirds whose dead bodies were found at the lake.
The officials buried the bird carcasses in a ditch. While a total of 669 dead birds were buried, many others were left unattended as it was difficult for the forest department personnel to go into the slippery muddy areas to retrieve their carcasses.
The incident of mysterious bird deaths is a second in Rajasthan within a week. Thirty-seven Demoiselle cranes were found dead in Vijay Sagar Lake in the Alwar district of Rajasthan on last Thursday. However, no link has been found in the two mass-death incidents, as the cranes supposedly died after eating poisoned grain. Officials have sent their viscera too for investigation.
The Sambhar Salt Lake is India’s largest inland saltwater lake. Located in Jaipur district of Rajasthan, it spreads across 190 to 230 square kilometres.
The lake has always attracted a host of migratory birds that travel tens of thousands of kilometres, typically to escape harsh winter conditions. However, the developmental activities around Sambhar in recent years, including the extension of salt pan operations, new settlements and changes in the weather, have reportedly decreased the number of birds flocking to the lake.
OFFICIALS in Somerset are hunting a suspected bird poisoner after more than 40 pigeons were killed – including some that fell out of the sky dead.
Investigators including police and the RSPCA are looking into a spate of dead pigeons in Wells and say it is possible they were poisoned.
The birds started appearing in the High Street and beyond at the end of July – on roads, pavements and in people’s gardens.
The birds showed no obvious injuries or signs of disease, leading to suspicions there was a pigeon poisoner in the city.
As many as 40 dead birds have been reported.
One woman found three in her garden and there there was even a report of one falling out of the sky and landing on a woman carrying a coffee.
It was suggested the birds might have been suffering from “pigeon canker”, a disease prevalent during the breeding season.
But autopsy carried out voluntarily vets proved ‘inconclusive’.
Wells City Councillor Celia Wride said: “I must say poisoning was my immediate reaction at the time.
“If this is a case of somebody putting down some killer feed for them we need to find out and do something about it. This is not the way to go about things.”
The matter has been referred to the police who passed it on to Natural England, the Government quango that advises the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on conservation and wildlife.
Natural England passed the matter onto the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which has responsibility through the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme.
It is an offence to injure or kill a wild bird under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, except under licence, and offenders can face an unlimited fine and/or six months imprisonment.
Tests for bird flu and West Nile Virus carried out by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) proved negative.
A spokesman for the HSE said: “While HSE are unable to confirm the range of tests carried out by APHA as part of this post-mortem, the report provided did not state a view that disease was responsible for the pigeons’ deaths.”
Further analysis of tissue samples is currently being carried out by Fera Science Limited to determine if pesticides were used. This can take up to eight weeks.
If the toxicological report does indicate pesticide use, this information will be considered along with the field investigation report to try to identify whether the exposure took place from an approved use or not.
If abuse is suspected, then the information will be referred back to the police who are responsible for catching the pigeon poisoner.
A spokesperson for the RSPCA said: “We are not sure what has happened, but we believe they may have been poisoned.
“The pigeons were taken to a vet by a member of the public and post mortems carried out.”
As well as being a deliberate act of poisoning the spokesperson said any potential source could also include poisonous substances not being safely stowed away.
Anyone with information that might help with the investigations is asked to call the RSPCA on 0300 123 8018 in confidence.
Take these five steps for a smooth airport experience, from TSA. BY MCCLATCHY
The hair curlers in a flier’s carry-on luggage were worth about $100,000 — thanks to the 34 prized finches that were stuffed inside them, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said.
Francis Gurahoo, a 39-year-old Connecticut man, was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City on Sunday when he was caught trying to smuggle the live birds from Guyana into the United States, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
The birds compete in singing contests in Queens and Brooklyn, and Gurahoo confessed that he was planning to sell each one at $3,000 a bird, according to prosecutors. He’s set to appear in federal court on Monday afternoon.
In the last few years, JFK customs agents have stopped a number of travelers trying to sneak the seed-eating birds into the U.S. “in various manners without declaring the birds on the required importation forms,” a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services special agent said in a criminal complaint, which the U.S. Attorney’s Office shared with McClatchy.
The special agent said in the complaint against Gurahoo birds can sell for $5,000 or more, and that “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.”
During the singing contests, which are often held in public parks, two birds sing against each other after spectators place bets, and then a judge declares a winner, the special agent said.
“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,” the agent wrote.
The agent said that searches of Fish and Wildlife Service databases showed Gurahoo hadn’t applied for or been given a permit to import the birds. He’s accused of violating federal rules that require animal importers to declare wildlife and get permits, as well as federal rules requiring imported commercial birds to be quarantined for a month.
“This requirement exists to prevent the spread of diseases carried by foreign birds, including Newcastle disease — a contagious avian virus than can infect humans and domestic poultry — and bird flu,” the special agent wrote.
Climate change could affect occurrences of diseases like bird-flu and Ebola, with environmental factors playing a larger role than previously understood in animal-to-human disease transfer, Australian researchers have found.
The team, a collaboration between The University of Queensland and Swansea University—and whose research is published in Trends in Parasitology—have been looking at how different environments provide opportunities for animal-to-human diseases, known as zoonotic diseases, to interact with and infect new host species, including humans.
These diseases are caused by pathogens—for example, viruses, bacteria or parasitic worms—that cross from animals to humans, including notorious infections like bird flu, rabies virus and Ebola.
“In the past, we’ve primarily looked at how many different types of animal species a pathogen infects—widely considered an indicator of its risk to shift between host species,” said Dr Nicholas Clark, from UQ’s School of Veterinary Science.
“This is just one factor, and we’ve found that how infected animals are related is also important.
“But importantly, our research also shows that different environments provide new opportunities for pathogens to interact with and infect new host species,” Dr Clark added.
Dr Konstans Wells, from Swansea University, led the team’s review of a growing number of research studies, demonstrating that this ‘host shifting’, where a pathogen moves between animal species, is linked to the environment.
“Now that we know that environmental conditions are key, the question is: how can we develop models to predict disease moving between species in times of global environmental change?” Dr Wells said.
“As a recent study that we published in Ecology Letters found, climate change may constrain or facilitate the spread of diseases like avian malaria, and this is just one example.
“We need to find out more information about how climate alters animal-to-human shifts, and this might help us build a new modelling framework, which could help us forecast disease spread.”
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SINGAPORE – A 46-year-old man was sentenced to six weeks in jail on Wednesday (Sept 19), after he was convicted of animal cruelty and illegally importing two birds.
Abdul Rahman Husain tried to smuggle two live zebra doves into Singapore on May 12 without an import licence from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), said a joint statement from AVA and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA).
ICA officers had stopped Rahman for checks at Woodlands Checkpoint when they detected the two doves crammed in separate socks and placed in two drawstring pouches hidden in his pants.
The birds were found to be in poor condition, and Rahman’s action was deemed by AVA to have caused unnecessary suffering to the birds. The birds were seized and placed under the care of Wildlife Reserves Singapore.
Rahman was sentenced to six weeks’ jail for illegal import of the birds, and another six weeks’ jail for failing to ensure that the birds were not subjected to unnecessary suffering.
Both sentences will run concurrently.
Anyone convicted of smuggling animals and birds into Singapore can be fined up to $10,000, and jailed for up to a year.
Animals that are smuggled into Singapore may introduce exotic diseases, such as bird flu, into the country.
Deadly bird flu Deadly bird flu H7N9 is spreading all over the world cause China is refusing to give virus samples to United Kingdom and US in order to produce vaccine. As it was known Chinese authorities have refused to give sample of the virus cause it possibly breaks WHO rules.
Deadly worlwide pandemic will be caused by a stain of bird flue,as experts warn cause the country is decreasing efforts to product vaccines. As it was also reported UK and US have tried to convice China in order to get the virus H7N9 samples in order to protect humans from the disease.
Professor Ian Jones, from the University of Reading said: ‘If the virus were to jump it would become a pandemic strain.’
Dr Michael Callahan, a disease expert at Harvard University warned: ‘Jeopardizing US access to foreign pathogens and therapies to counter them undermines our nation’s ability to protect against infections which can spread globally within days.’
The virus H7N9 is not causing symptoms to birds but to humans could have deadly results. Tests have shown that it could cause caughing fever, breathing problems, pneumonia or organ failure and worst of all could have deadly results.
WHO earlier this year ranked the bird flu as one of the major pandemic treats.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam UK Government’s deputy chief medical officer, said: ‘[H7N9] is an example of another virus which has proven its ability to transmit from birds to humans. It’s possible that it could be the cause of the next pandemic.’
China risks global pandemic with new deadly bird flu strain (Image: GETTY)
Countries are usually happy to share viral samples in the common interest of stopping the spread of dangerous viruses, under an agreement established by the World Health Organisation.
But China has so far caused outrage by refusing to do this, despite a request reportedly made more than a year ago by top British scientists.
There have been at least 1,625 cases of H7N9 in humans so far in China. About 40 per cent of those people infected have died.
The UK and United States have prioritised gathering as much intelligence as possible on the virus, which England’s deputy chief medical officer warned is a strong candidate for becoming the next global flu pandemic.
For over a year, the Chinese government has withheld lab samples of a rapidly evolving influenza virus from the United States — specimens needed to develop vaccines and treatments, according to federal health officials.
Despite persistent requests from government officials and research institutions, China has not provided samples of the dangerous virus, a type of bird flu called H7N9. In the past, such exchanges have been mostly routine under rules established by the World Health Organization.
Now, as the United States and China spar over trade, some scientists worry that the vital exchange of medical supplies and information could slow, hampering preparedness for the next biological threat.
The scenario is “unlike shortages in aluminum and soybeans,” said Dr. Michael Callahan, an infectious disease specialist at Harvard Medical School.
“Jeopardizing U.S. access to foreign pathogens and therapies to counter them undermines our nation’s ability to protect against infections which can spread globally within days.”
Experts concur that the world’s next global pandemic will likely come from a repeat offender: the flu. The H7N9 virus is one candidate.
Since taking root in China in 2013, the virus has spread through poultry farms, evolving into a highly pathogenic strain that can infect humans. It has killed 40 percent of its victims.
If this strain were to become highly contagious among humans, seasonal flu vaccines would provide little to no protection. Americans have virtually no immunity.
“Pandemic influenza spreads faster than anything else,” said Rick A. Bright, the director of Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services that oversees vaccine development. “There’s nothing to hold it back or slow it down. Every minute counts.”
Under an agreement established by the World Health Organization, participating countries must transfer influenza samples with pandemic potential to designated research centers “in a timely manner.”
That process — involving paperwork, approval through several agencies and a licensed carrier — normally takes several months, according to Dr. Larry Kerr, the director of pandemics and emerging threats at the Department of Health and Human Services.
But more than one year after a devastating wave of H7N9 infections in Asia — 766 cases were reported, almost all in China — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still waiting for several viral samples, the National Security Council and the W.H.O. confirmed.
Scientists at the Department of Agriculture have had such difficulty obtaining flu samples from China that they have stopped requesting them altogether, according to a government official who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.
At least four research institutions have relied upon a small group of H7N9 samples from cases in Taiwan and Hong Kong. (All four asked not to be identified for fear of further straining ties.)
The Chinese embassy in Washington did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The Chinese Center For Disease Control and Prevention also did not reply to inquiries regarding the transfer.
When the H7N9 virus first appeared in China, researchers say the Chinese government at first provided timely information. But communication has gradually worsened.
Yet a sudden spike in infections during the 2016-2017 outbreak wave demands intense research, said scientists aiming to understand the virus’ evolution.
Recent trade tensions could worsen the problem.
The Office of the United States Trade Representative in April released a proposed list of products to be targeted for tariffs — including pharmaceutical products such as vaccines, medicines and medical devices.
So far, none of those medical products have landed on the final tariff lists. But lower-level trade negotiations with China concluded on Thursday with few signs of progress, increasing the likelihood of additional tariffs.
The United States relies on China not only for H7N9 influenza samples but for medical supplies, such as plastic drip mechanisms for intravenous saline, as well as ingredients for certain oncology and anesthesia drugs. Some of these are delivered through a just-in-time production model; there are no stockpiles, which could prove dangerous if the supply was disrupted, health officials said.
Scientists believe top commerce officials in both governments view the viral samples much like any other laboratory product, and may be unfamiliar with their vital role in global security.
“Countries don’t own their viral samples any more than they own the birds in their skies,” said Andrew C. Weber, who oversaw biological defense programs at the Pentagon during the Obama administration.
“Given that this flu virus is a potential threat to humanity, not sharing it immediately with the global network of W.H.O. laboratories like C.D.C. is scandalous. Many could die needlessly if China denies international access to samples.”
For over a decade, epidemiological data and samples have been used as trade war pawns.
China hid the 2002 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, for four months and then kept the findings of its research private. Some provinces withheld information about cases even from the central government in Beijing.
In 2005, Chinese authorities insisted an H5N1 influenza outbreak was contained, contradicting University of Hong Kong scientists who offered evidence that it was expanding. Those authorities hesitated to share viral samples from infected wild birds with the international community, concealing the scope to avoid a hit to their vast poultry industry.
Indonesia followed suit, refusing in 2007 to share specimens of H5N1 with the United States and United Kingdom, arguing that the countries would use the samples to develop a vaccine that Indonesians could not afford.
Those episodes led to the 2011 development of the W.H.O.’s Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework, which aims to promote sample exchanges as well as developing countries’ access to vaccines.
But for countries like China, bearing the burden of a novel virus is paradoxical. Outbreaks are expensive — the wave of H7N9 infections in 2013 alone cost China more than $6 billion, according to the United Nations — but they can provide a head-start in developing valuable treatments.
“In a sense, China has made lemonade from lemons — converting the problem of global infectious disease threats into lifesaving and valuable commodities,” Dr. Callahan said.
And now, as the H7N9 virus evolves, United States authorities worry that the Chinese have obfuscated the scale and features of this outbreak.
The Chinese government has refused to share clinical data from infected patients, according to scientists, and claims to have all but eradicated H7N9 through a single poultry vaccination campaign.
“Influenza is going to do what it does best, which is mutate,” Dr. Kerr said.
EARLIER REPORTING ON THE TRADE FLIGHT AND BIRD FLU
U.S. and China to Rekindle Trade Talks as More Tariffs Loom
Bird Flu Is Spreading in Asia, Experts (Quietly) Warn
As NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett began delivering remarks at a forum about charitable giving, activists angered by her refusal to enforce health codes violated during an animal sacrifice shut down her talk. This was the fifth time that activists have disrupted Commissioner Bassett over her support of Kaporos, a religious ritual during which ultra-Orthodox Jews in New York City swing an estimated 60,000 six-week old chickens around their heads and slaughter them, contaminating the streets and sewers with their blood, body parts, feathers and feces.
“How can Commissioner Bassett make a presentation in good conscience about taking care of the less fortunate when she’s endangering the health of some of NYC’s most vulnerable residents?” asked Nathan Semmel, one of the organizers of the disruption. “We know we can’t ask Dr. Bassett to align her behavior with the values she publicly espouses, but we can demand that she enforce the law.”
A dozen animal rights and public health advocates disrupt NYC Health Commissioner over her refusal to enforce health codes violated during a mass animal sacrifice on public streets.
The most recent protest comes on the heels of news about the spread of bird flu. On June 15th, Newsweek reported that The Centers for Disease Control said the current strain of avian influenza has “the greatest potential to cause a pandemic of all human viruses.” If the flu spreads to the United States, New Yorkers will be particularly vulnerable because tens of thousands of city residents come into contact with the sick and dying chickens who are stacked in crates on the streets for several days leading up to the Kaporos ritual.
NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett refuses to acknowledge a toxicology report which includes avian flu as one of many health risks associated with the ritual sacrifice Kaporos (center photo: Unparalleled Suffering Photography)
Sources inside the administration say that Commissioner Bassett is refusing to enforce the health laws because the ultra-Orthodox Jews who violate them represent a powerful voting bloc that helped to elect her boss, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.
NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett refuses to acknowledge the multiple health codes are violated during a mass sacrifice of 60,000 six week old chickens on public streets.
“Not only does Dr. Bassett refuse to enforce the health codes, but she also refuses to acknowledge a toxicology report which unequivocally states that the violations jeopardize the public health by exposing New Yorkers to e-coli, salmonella, avian flu and many other pathogens and toxins,” said Jessica Hollander, who participated in the protest. “Her decision to put politics ahead of public health will come back to haunt her if a disease outbreak occurs because she has been warned by experts that the illegal animal sacrifice poses serious health risks.”
Multiple health codes are violated during Kaporos, a ritual animal sacrifice, but NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett turns a blind eye because the practitioners represent a powerful voting bloc.