A pet macaw that flew 900km from the Gold Coast and landed at of all places Sydney airport, has caused a national biosecurity alert.
The unscheduled arrival of Maggie the macaw on the tarmac at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport had airport staff and Customs officers in a spin trying to work out how she got there and if someone had smuggled her into the country.
Maggie’s antics caused quite a few pretty pennies to be spent after she forced her own press release to warn people about avian biosecurity threats and then she had to be returned to her owner on the Gold Coast at some considerable expense after extensive inquiries.
The Department of Agriculture has no doubt Maggie flew all the way to Sydney after escaping her Gold Coast coop.
“Given large birds are capable of flying very long distances, we believe the bird flew there itself,” a Department of Agriculture spokesman said.
“Sydney Airport Corporation Limited staff found the macaw walking on the tarmac by itself on the domestic side of the airport. They captured it, before handing it to our biosecurity officers to manage. There is no evidence to suggest someone was trying to export it.”
In a release on Maggie, the department said it had “managed a potentially serious biosecurity threat to Australia’s bird and human health”, following the discovery of the blue and gold macaw on December 3.
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ head of Biosecurity Operations, Nico Padovan, said it was originally feared Maggie was not a local-owned bird and had been imported.
“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.”
“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.”