A kookaburra has been spotted by an Australian woman living in the US state of Virginia for sale in a pet store for $1200.
Wendy Davidson said she was “mortified” when she saw the bird confined to a cage.
“I went away, but I couldn’t stop thinking about this little guy,” Ms Davidson said.
“It saddens me he is on the other side of the world, living in solitude.”
Under Australian environmental law, live native birds cannot be exported from Australia for primarily commercial purposes.
To keep a kookaburra as a pet, the NSW Native Animal Keepers’ Species List dictates a permit is required and they are not allowed to be kept as a companion pet.
It is also against the law to catch them in the wild and the permits are generally designed for people who keep a native animal, such as a kookaburra, because it is sick or injured and they are caring for it.
In America, the laws vary from state to state, but in Virginia there is nothing preventing people from owning exotic birds, such as kookaburras, in the same way people own exotic birds, such as macaws, in Australia.
Ravi Wasan from the Feathered Friends Sanctuary said even if it was legal, kookaburras were not an easy pet to keep.
“They are a very intelligent species,” Mr Wasan said.
“They work in co-operative flocks.
“We suggest owning a kookaburra should only be for the most experienced individual and for those enthusiasts who have very large spaces for these birds to live in.”
Responses from authorities
Ms Davidson said she began contacting authorities immediately.
She reached out to several zoos, both in Virginia and Australia, the wildlife trafficking alliance, the Australian Consulate General in New York, and the US Department of Agriculture and Animal Care.
The majority of organisations Ms Davidson reached out to did not get back in touch; however, this week she did get a response from the Australian Consulate-General, which said they would be filing a report with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Taronga Zoo in Australia also responded to her comments online.
“While we can’t comment on whether the sale of the kookaburra is legal in this instance, one thing you can do is download the Wildlife Witness app which allows you to report suspicious or questionable trade or trafficking of wildlife,” the response said.
“Thanks for bringing it to our attention.”
The Australian Wildlife Protection Council was concerned if they bought the kookaburra it would perpetuate supply and demand, and advised Ms Davidson to leave the bird where it was.
In Australia, a spokesperson for Symbio Wildlife Park, near Wollongong, said kookaburras were common among breeders in the US.
“You may simply find this is a 10th-generation, captive-bred bird whose ancestors were exported to the US many years ago before the laws were tightened,” the Symbio spokesperson said.
“Although it is unsettling seeing one of our iconic Aussie animals in a pet shop, there is no real difference in this than the thousands of people in Australia who have native parrots and/or cockatoos in their home aviaries.”
Ms Davidson said she felt as though, with all the conflicting information, she did not know what else she could do.
“Everyone is just passing the buck,” she said.
“I almost feel like we might have to give up on this little guy.”
However the Australian government has stepped in, with the Department of Environment and Energy saying it was seeking further information about the allegation.
“Our investigators and intelligence officers regularly engage with international law enforcement authorities to achieve law enforcement outcomes for wildlife crimes,” a department spokesperson said.
“To ensure the integrity of our inquiries, the department will not release the details of this matter and any further information can be provided by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.”