Fake US leg band gets pigeon a reprieve in Australia

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CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – A pigeon that Australia has declared a biosecurity risk has been given a stay after a U.S. bird organization said its identification leg ring was fake.

The group suggested that the bird found in a Melbourne backyard on December 26 was a carrier pigeon that had left the US state of Oregon, 13,000 kilometers (8,000 miles), two months earlier.

Based on this, Australian authorities said on Thursday they considered the bird a disease risk and planned to kill it.

But Deone Roberts, sports development manager for the Oklahoma-based American Racing Pigeon Union, said Friday the group was bogus.

The band number belongs to a blue bar pigeon in the United States, which is not the bird pictured in Australia, she said.

“The bird strip in Australia is counterfeit and untraceable,” Roberts said. “They don’t need to kill him.”

The Australian Department of Agriculture, responsible for biosafety, agreed that the pigeon nicknamed Joe, after US President-elect Joe Biden, was wearing a “fraudulent copy” leg band.

“Following an investigation, the department concluded that Joe the pigeon is most likely Australian and does not pose a biosecurity risk,” he said in a statement.

The ministry said it would take no further action.

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Acting Australian Prime Minister Michael McCormack had said earlier that there would be no mercy if the pigeon came from the United States.

“If Joe has come in a way that hasn’t followed our strict biosecurity measures, then bad luck Joe either returns home or faces the consequences,” McCormack said.

Martin Foley, Minister of Health for the state of Victoria where Joe lives, had asked the federal government to spare the bird even though it was at risk of disease.

“I urge the Commonwealth quarantine officials to show a little compassion,” Foley said.

Andy Meddick, a Victorian lawmaker for the Minor Animal Justice Party, called for a “pigeon pardon for Joe”.

“If the federal government allows Joe to live, I’m happy to ask for assurance that he doesn’t pose a flight risk,” Meddick said.

Melbourne resident Kevin Celli-Bird who found the emaciated bird in his garden was surprised by the change of nationality, but happy the bird he named Joe was not destroyed.

“I thought it was just a feel-good thing and now you wanna put that pigeon aside and I thought it wasn’t, you know you can’t do that, there must be d ‘other options,’ Celli-Bird said of the threat to euthanize.

Celli-Bird had contacted the American Racing Pigeon Union to find the owner of the bird based on the number on the leg band. The bands have both a number and a symbol, but Celli-Bird did not remember the symbol and said he could no longer catch the bird because he had recovered from his initial weakness.

The bird with the real leg band was missing from a 560-kilometer (350-mile) race in Oregon on Oct. 29, said Lucas Cramer, owner of the Crooked River Challenge.

This bird did not have a running record that would make it valuable enough to steal its identity, he said.

“This bird didn’t finish the series of races, it didn’t make any money and so it’s worthless, really,” Cramer said.

He said it was possible that a pigeon could cross the Pacific on a boat from Oregon to Australia.

“In reality, it could potentially happen, but it’s not the same pigeon. It’s not even a carrier pigeon, ”Cramer said.

The bird passes every day in the …

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