Biosecurity staff rule out fowl play with bird found at Sydney Airport

The department has managed a potentially serious biosecurity threat to Australia’s bird and human health, following the discovery of a blue and gold macaw at Sydney airport on 3 December 2017.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ head of Biosecurity Operations, Nico Padovan, said illegally imported birds, or those accidentally imported as stowaways, may carry diseases such as bird flu which can be transmitted to other birds and to people.

“To protect Australia’s favourable health status, accidentally or illegally imported birds must be isolated from other birds, kept under biosecurity control, and then exported back to their country of origin or humanely euthanised,” Mr Padovan said.

“After Sydney airport staff found this biosecurity risk, the department’s biosecurity staff contained it and referred it to a departmental veterinary officer for assessment.

“The veterinary officer found the bird was in good health and had an identifier leg band number but no microchip, and they held it for supervision, under biosecurity control, with strict biosecurity measures including isolation from other birds and decontamination procedures for staff.

“Initial signs pointed to this being an Australian bird that did not threaten our birdlife and our enviable health status, the task then was to find conclusive evidence to ensure it did not present a biosecurity risk to our valuable agricultural industries and environment.

“The department’s Social Media team reached out to the community but could not find a match. We also contacted the Department of Environment and Energy and, through the leg band supplier, were able to confirm it was an Australian bred bird.

“Once this was confirmed, it did not need to be held under biosecurity control, and was transferred to the RSPCA.

“The leg band supplier did further digging through its receipt records and it pointed to a breeder on the Gold Coast.

“This breeder contacted the department and confirmed the bird was his—it had escaped in April 2016 and he had the DNA testing records which matched the leg band number.

“Bird and breeder should be reunited soon—after it spent 18 months away and travelled around 900 kilometres.

“This is a fantastic outcome, thanks to the cooperation, collaboration and information-sharing with external stakeholders.

“We take exotic bird finds very seriously, as they can carry exotic highly contagious diseases such as Newcastle Disease and Avian Influenza which can infect domestic poultry, many species of captive caged and wild birds and some strains able to be transmitted to humans.

“Safeguarding Australia’s biosecurity is the department’s priority. This was a case where we safeguarded Australia’s biosecurity and got this well-travelled macaw safely back home.”

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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