US racing pigeon becomes Aussie fugitive
A US racing pigeon is on the run from Australian quarantine authorities after making the incredible 15,000km journey from Alabama to Melbourne.
The bird landed in the backyard of Kevin Celli-Bird in the Melbourne suburb of Officer on Boxing Day.
Mr Celli-Bird immediately noticed the pigeon looked exhausted and weak.
"It was pretty emaciated so I crushed up some biscuits … gave it some dry biscuits," he told Nine.
Noticing the blue tag attached to the bird's leg, Mr Celli-Bird tried to track down its owner but couldn't find the bird registered anywhere in Australia.
That is when the Melbourne man discovered the bird was linked to the American racing pigeon union and was registered to an owner in Montgomery, Alabama.
The pigeon had been entered in a race on October 29 but was believed to have been blown off course, resulting in the bird finding its way into the Melbourne backyard.
After discovering the birds origin, Mr Celli-Bird decided it needed a fitting name and called it Joe, after President-elect Joe Biden.
He has tried to contact Joe's owner but has so far had no response.
Rod Churchill from the Greater Melbourne Pigeon Federation said the pigeon likely had help to make the 15,000km journey.
"I've never heard of a pigeon flying that far. Never," he told Nine.
"I'd say it's hitchhiked. I'd say its had a pretty strong wind blown it off course out to sea, it's got onto a ship and has eventually found its way here to Australia."
But Joe's time in Australia may soon be cut short after the Department of Agriculture raised concerns about biosecurity risks the bird could pose to native wildlife.
Mr Celli-Bird was contacted by the department on Thursday and asked to catch the bird so it could be euthanised.
However, due to the Melbourne man's care, Joe is now back to full health and almost impossible to catch.
"I understand why they have to do it but I don't see why they can't capture him and check for diseases or why they can't contact the owners and send him back to America to let him live out his days," Mr Celli-Bird told the Herald Sun.
"Maybe if he was called Trump he would receive diplomatic immunity."
Australia has extremely strict biosecurity laws in order to manage potential threats to plant, animal and human health.
In 2015, the government threatened to euthanise two Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo, belonging to actors Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard after they were brought into the country without clearing border protection.
Barnaby Joyce, who was the Agriculture Minister at the time, gave the animals 72 hours to "bugger off back to California" before they would be put to sleep.
Both Mr Depp and Ms Heard claimed it was a misunderstanding and they thought their people had taken care of the paperwork.
Originally published as US racing pigeon becomes Aussie fugitive