SAN DIEGO — About 150 exotic parrots were sent back to Mexico on Wednesday after a repatriation ceremony at San Diego’s Otay Mesa border crossing.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement worked jointly to recapture the birds, which were smuggled from Mexico.
Special Agent John Brooks, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said that from May to July, four people were arrested attempting to smuggle 62 birds across the border at the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa ports of entry. The animals were valued at $63,000.
Those numbers are in addition to the hundreds more birds, valued at more than $200,000, that have been brought into the country illegally since 1999, Brooks said.
The smuggling efforts are a sign of a “renewed appetite for wild birds,” he said, which are a “serious threat to their survival in the wild.”
Wednesday’s ceremony marks the first parrot repatriation in San Diego since December 2004, when 90 red-headed and lilac-crowned Amazon parrots believed to have been captured in the tropics of southern Mexico were returned home.
ICE officials said they are working “aggressively” to stop the smuggling of birds and expect to make more arrests.
In addition to threatening their native populations, the smuggling of birds bring a risk of diseases to California’s poultry and native wildlife.
Authorities said that the birds would have likely been sold at flea markets and pet shops in Southern California for up to $800 each.