NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (ValleyCentral) — U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents intercepted bird carcasses and other organic material believed to be used in religions for luck and curses.
On Saturday, Oct. 8, CBP agriculture specialists in Memphis, Tennessee seized two bird carcasses and palm seeds encased in cement statues. The 22-pound shipment coming from Mexico City was en route to Odessa, Texas, where the transporter described the items as a gift for a cousin “with crafts,” a release from U.S. Customs and Border Protection stated.
After being x-rayed, agents saw that the shipment contained three cement statues decorated with puka shells. Once broken by CBP agriculture specialists, it was discovered that the statues contained two rotten bird carcasses and 21 ounces of a pound of suspected Elaeis Guineensis seeds.
According to the release, the seeds are from African palm trees, and the small birds were unidentifiable based on their decomposition. No documentation for the organic material accompanied the shipment.
“To my knowledge, many of these types of ‘crafts’ are belief-based,” said Michael Johnson, the acting Memphis area Port Director. “The Yoruba, Santería or Osha religions use them, and are meant for luck, or for curses.”
The bird carcasses present a significant risk of introducing diseases such as Avian influenza to U.S. poultry populations, the CBP release stated. The seeds, without proper documentation, present a risk of introducing diseases or invasive species.
Both the birds and seeds were destroyed by steam sterilization.
“Hopefully our steam sterilization cleared away any bad spirits they may have drawn in,” Johnson said.