Today in Found at the Border: Elmo is for the birds.
More specifically, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say a California couple attempted to smuggle a pair of parrots into Arizona from Mexico, by cramming the birds inside a stuffed Elmo doll.
-10 Most Creative Smuggling Attempts at the U.S./Mexico Border
According to a CBP spokeswoman, the couple first got in trouble for trying to bring a bag of mangoes into the country through the Port of San Luis last week.
While one of CBP's agriculture specialists was dealing with the mango issue, another CBP officer asked to take a look at their Elmo doll.
"After an x-ray of the doll revealed an anomaly inside, the doll was cut open to reveal two live parrots," a CBP spokeswoman says in a statement.
The penalty for bird-smuggling is quite a bit lighter than drug-smuggling. The couple was fined $300.
Such bird regulations are apparently pretty tough. According to CBP:
All birds imported into the United States (except birds from Canada), as distinguished from poultry or unaccompanied birds, must be quarantined for 30 days at a USDA bird quarantine facility. The importer is responsible for making necessary quarantine arrangements, as well as obtaining health certificates in the country of origin.
Birds, including pet birds, may also be subject to U.S. Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Services regulations. Pet birds are regulated since they can carry viral and bacterial diseases of concern including Avian Influenza, Exotic Newcastle Disease and Psittacosis.
The seized birds was placed in a quarantine isolation crate and transferred to a USDA-Veterinary Services bird holding facility.
In case you're worried about the fate of the mangoes, those were seized too, and according to CBP, they were "destroyed on site as per United States Department of Agriculture approved destruction methods." No word on Elmo's fate.
The photos below show the parrots, identified as conures, as well as the Elmo smuggling vessel:
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