International news outlets picked up the strange tale of a bird named Joe, and the internet marveled at its journey. The authorities said they believed it had most likely hitched a ride on a cargo ship.
Brad Turner, secretary of the Australian National Pigeon Association, told The Associated Press that he had heard of cases of Chinese racing pigeons reaching the Australian west coast aboard cargo ships.
The greatest long-distance flight recorded by a pigeon is claimed to have started in Arras, France, and ended in Saigon, Vietnam, in 1931, according to the website Pigeonpedia. “The distance was 7,200 miles, and it took 24 days,” the website says.
Mr. Celli-Bird thought it was all a bit of good fun, but the Australian authorities had a different take on the situation. The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment said Joe “posed a direct biosecurity risk to Australian bird life and our poultry industry.” It intended to euthanize him, local media reported.
Australia has notoriously strict biosecurity laws. In 2015, Barnaby Joyce, then agricultural minister, threatened to euthanize the actor Johnny Depp’s two Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo, because they had not been declared to customs when they arrived in Queensland aboard a private jet. Luckily, arrangements were made for the two dogs to be flown back to the United States. Amber Heard, then Mr. Depp’s wife, later pleaded guilty in a Queensland court to providing false information on her passenger card after she and the dogs landed on the Gold Coast to visit the actor, and the couple offered an apology.
Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack showed no mercy about the pigeon matter at a news conference, saying: “If Joe has come in a way that has not met out strict biosecurity measures, then bad luck, Joe. Either fly home or face the consequences.”
Faced with the prospect of Joe’s demise, Mr. Celli-Bird had second thoughts about the name he had given the bird. “Last night I thought maybe we should have called him Donald,” he said. “Maybe we could have gotten a presidential pardon or diplomatic immunity.”
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