Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Feds investigating Richmond Hill bird smugglers

From 1010WINS:

The two black finches whistled songs at each other in fluttering voices as a group of men crowded around their cages.

It was the first bird singing competition of the morning, and men on either side of the two cages counted the songs, each as fleeting as a haiku. The first finch to tweet 50 would be declared the winner.

For years, bird racing, as the sport is known, has been held in a park in the Richmond Hill neighborhood of Queens on warm Sunday afternoons with scant attention from outsiders.

Yet the races have drawn increased scrutiny recently from law enforcement, as federal officials target illegal smuggling of finches from Guyana. Authorities also suspect the men place illegal bets on the birds.

The people who flock to the races, mostly Guyanese immigrant men, argue that it is simply a harmless cultural pastime.

"This is how we relax our minds," said Rajendra "Bush" Harinarian, who compared the sport to watching baseball for Americans. "We hang out with our friends, with the birds."

John Neal, a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service agent serving New York, said his agents investigate six to eight finch smuggling cases each year. Most of the birds are destined to compete in the races at Phil "Scooter" Rizzuto Park, previously known as Smokey Oval Park, he said.

The illicit trade is fueled by the demand for males of species native to Guyana known as the lesser-seed finch or "towa-towa," Neal said. Racing enthusiasts consider them the best singers, he said.

Though the smuggled birds sometimes die before arrival, the males that survive can sell for hundreds or thousands of dollars in the U.S. market.

6 comments:

ew-3 said...

to think the FBI was formed to take on the likes of Dillinger. Now we have so many Feds they have time, money and manpower to worry about some birds..

Queens Crapper said...

They bring disease into the country if not properly cared for and inspected. They also can become invasive to the detriment of our native species. Smuggling poached wildlife is a big bucks business.

Anonymous said...

The feds should be investigating more than just bird smuggling in Richmond Hill. Whole lot of runnings going on there in the bars, clubs, and even mandirs.

Wade Nichols said...

to think the FBI was formed to take on the likes of Dillinger. Now we have so many Feds they have time, money and manpower to worry about some birds..

It is ironic that we have Federales who are focusing on bird smuggling rather than the greater ill of "undocumented guest workers".

FBI, TSA, they're all a bunch of bureaucratic patsies. I can't stand dealing with those fat-assed TSA clowns at LaGuardia and JFK with their polyester pants, treating me like I'm a criminal.

They bring disease into the country if not properly cared for and inspected. They also can become invasive to the detriment of our native species.

Indeed. It's high time that the FBI finally focuses on our illustrious "undocumented guest birds" from the South.

Round up the birds and the "guest workers"!

Anonymous said...

These are not just caged birds smuggled in because they chirp nicely. In Guyana, these birds are as lucrative as champion race horses. The birds are used in singing competitions where big bucks are wagered on which one can tweet the longest, loudest, etc.

Crapper is correct that the birds have the potential to bring disease into the U.S. You can't ignore the larger issue that they're being smuggled in for the purpose of illegal gambling.

The customs laws of the U.S. must stand paramount to the desire of the local Guyanese population to import their bird contests to these shores. These are tropical birds who are not prone to survive in our environment. Moreover, if you're a guest or citizen of the U.S., you're obliged to respect our laws which preclude the illegal import of wild tropical birds for illegal gambling.

Anonymous said...

Psitacossis or "parrot fever" a deadly respiratory illness, West Nile, avian influenza, these are some of the serious illness that are carried by exotic birds and a couple of these illness have already cropped up in New York.

Does anyone remember that the city is now paying millions yearly to eradicate mosquitos with West Nile because the Bronx Zoo accidentally imported some infected birds?

Illnesses imported from other lands is still a problem. Greenwich Village essentially owed its growth to the needs of the city's elite to flee yellow fever brought in by slaves brought in from Africa.