Szu Ta Wu almost made it through the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) checkpoints with his alleged cuddly contraband after arriving at Miami International Airport last Thursday, March 23, on a Taca Airlines flight from Managua, Nicaragua.
But during a secondary round of questioning by customs officials, an agent suddenly heard an unmistakable “squeaking or chirping sound coming from [his] carry-on suitcase,” according to federal court documents.
Wu, who hails from Taiwan, removed a smaller bag from inside his suitcase and “pulled out what appeared to be a bird egg,” a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report states. “The CBP officer looked into the smaller bag and saw more eggs and a baby bird,” the report says.
Wu allegedly conceded that he had 29 eggs in his luggage.
Customs agents called in U.S. Fish and Wildlife officers, who found that eight of the eggs were either hatched or in the process of hatching.
Wu was detained and charged with smuggling goods into the U.S. He was booked under Title 18, Section 545, a felony smuggling statute.
He allegedly told investigators through a Mandarin translator that a friend had paid for him to travel to Nicaragua and stay at a hotel, where an intermediary would deliver the bird eggs to him. He claimed he did not declare the eggs on his customs documentation because he was afraid he would have to pay fees for bringing them in his luggage, according to the court documents.
Investigators suspect the eggs were smuggled as part of the exotic animal trade. The resale of hard-to-find or sought-after birds is a lucrative business in the U.S. and abroad. In Nicaragua, where Wu had his alleged hotel rendezvous, the sale and trade of macaws and similar birds is thriving, according to the affidavit.
Wu has a detention hearing scheduled for tomorrow, March 30, and his arraignment is set for April 10.
The feds say that as of March 24, they were still trying to identify what bird species Wu was transporting. Wu appeared to be clueless as to what kind of bird they are.
Customs agents at Miami International Airport aren’t entirely unfamiliar with finding chirping creatures in travelers’ possession.
In January 2016, a man was found at Miami International Airport with nine live birds in a fanny pack and stuffed in the “groin of his pants.” Another Miami airport bird bust transpired in February 2020, when Customs and Border Protection found two finches, one dead and one alive, crammed into a small plastic bottle.
Both incidents involved alleged smugglers arriving on flights from Cuba.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies have a strict process for importing birds, requiring a permit from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a Veterinary Services import permit, a health certificate, quarantine, and medical examination of animals at port of entry.