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Border officials in Tennessee find bird carcasses encased in cement statues

Border officials in Tennessee found two bird carcasses en route to Texas encased in cement statues earlier this month, authorities said Tuesday. 

The seizure was made in Memphis on Oct. 8 by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists. The 22-pound shipment contained two dead birds and suspected Elaeis Guineensis seeds.

It was shipped from Mexico City and was slated to be delivered in Odessa, Texas. The package was vaguely described as a gift to a cousin “with crafts,” CBP said.

“To my knowledge, many of these types of ‘crafts’ are belief-based,” acting Memphis Area Port Director Michael Johnson said in a statement. “The Yoruba, Santería or Osha religions use them, and are meant for luck, or for curses. The cement statues were decorated with puka shells and contained the palm seeds and the carcasses.”

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“Whether the shipments make sense or not, we vigilantly intercept all contraband and other prohibited items to safeguard the American public,” he added. “Hopefully our steam sterilization cleared away any bad spirits they may have drawn in.”

Once examined by X-ray, it was revealed that the shipment contained three cement statues, “each concealing organic material,” a CBP statement said. 

When the statues were broken, two rotted bird carcasses and seeds were found inside. The seeds are from African palm trees and the type of birds could not be identified because of their decomposition. 

The carcasses present a risk, officials said, of introducing diseases such as Avian influenza. The birds and seeds were destroyed by steam sterilization. 

In the fiscal year 2021, CBP discovered 264 pests at American ports of entry and 2,548 materials for quarantine, including plants, meat, animal byproducts and soil.

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