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Originally published Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at 9:55 AM

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Australian traveler caught smuggling birds in his pants

An Australian traveler was caught with two live pigeons stuffed in his pants following a trip to the Middle East, customs officials said...

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SYDNEY — An Australian traveler was caught with two live pigeons stuffed in his pants following a trip to the Middle East, customs officials said Tuesday.

The 23-year-old man was searched after authorities discovered two eggs in a vitamin container in his luggage, said Richard Janeczko, national investigations manager for the Australian Customs Service

They found the pigeons wrapped in padded envelopes and held to each of the man's legs with a pair of tights, according to a statement released by the agency. Officials also seized seeds in his money belt and an undeclared eggplant.

The alleged bird smuggler, who arrived in Melbourne on Sunday on a flight from Dubai, was being questioned.

Australia has very strict quarantine regulations on the importation of wildlife, plants and food to protect health, agriculture and the environment of the isolated island nation.

Charges of wildlife smuggling — which carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of about $70,000 — could be brought against the man.

Janeczko said the pigeons were not endangered and that the case — as well as the birds, eggs and seeds — had been turned over to the Quarantine Service to assess the health risk associated with bringing the birds into the country.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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