A racing pigeon that travelled across the Pacific Ocean is to be put to death after running afoul of Australia’s strict quarantine rules.
That is, if authorities can find him again.
The Alabama-registered bird absconded during a race in the western US state of Oregon in late October, before turning up in Victoria state, Australia, almost two months later.
Melbourne resident Kevin Celli-Bird says he found the pigeon, who he named Joe, in his back garden on Dec 26.
“He was pretty emaciated, so I crushed up a dry biscuit and left it out there for him,” he told the AP news agency.
Joe then took off again for parts unknown.
But after news of Joe’s marathon trip and presence in Australia made headlines, Celli-Bird was contacted by officials concerned about the threat of infection.
They told him Joe poses a “direct biosecurity risk” to Australia’s bird population and poultry industry.
When located, he will be caught and euthanised.
The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment says he will have to be put down because of the danger of infection to local bird populations.
“Regardless of its origin, any domesticated bird that has not met import health status and testing requirements is not permitted to remain in Australia,” a department spokesman said in a statement.
“The only possible outcome to manage the biosecurity risk is humane destruction of the bird.”
It is not clear how Joe managed to make the 8,000-mile journey from the west coast of the US to southern Australia, but it is doubtful he flew there. Experts believe he is likely to have hitchhiked on board a cargo ship.
It is possible to legally bring pigeons into Australia but the process is difficult and can cost thousands of dollars, and none have been legally imported from the US in over a decade.
Joe the pigeon is not the first animal to face trouble from Australia’s strict animal import laws.
In 2015, actors Johnny Depp and his then-wife Amber Heard had to issue a video apology after illegally bringing their dogs Pistol and Boo into the country on their private jet.