UK Government

UK Border Agency: Packed and plucked pigeons seizure baffles border officials

Press Release   •   Sep 02, 2010 11:59 BST

UK Border Agency officers have foiled an attempt to smuggle a mysterious brief case full of dead pigeons into the UK.

Some of the birds, which were found at Gatwick airport, had all of their feathers removed, leading officials to suspect they may have been headed for British restaurants. 

The case remains a mystery as no one has tried to reclaim the haul.

Working at all of the UK’s ports and airports, harbours, marinas and private airfields, UK Border Agency officials regularly come across efforts to bring animals into the country illegally. Read on for the top ten weirdest finds.

1. Snakes on a plane: UK Border Agency officials stopped a passenger travelling through Heathrow as he tried to bring his pet Boa Constrictor snake into the UK by wrapping it around his leg;

2. Pet hate: when a striped animal skin was found in a man’s luggage, UK Border Agency officials suspected it was an endangered species. Tests identified it as the skin of a large domestic dog, which had been painted to look like a tiger skin;

3. Under a vest: a passenger at Heathrow tried to smuggle 40 rare and endangered parrot eggs, including those of the highly rare Blue Headed Macaw, by hiding them in a specially made vest worn under his shirt. UK Border Agency officials put the eggs into an incubator, the majority of the parrots hatched and were re-homed in zoos around the UK;

4. Pipe dreams: 26 rare birds of prey were stuffed into plastic pipes for a thwarted smuggling attempt from Thailand;

5. Poisonous delivery: a parcel coming from Tanzania attracted UK Border Agency officials’ suspicions - an x-ray revealed two highly venomous snakes, a puff adder and a gaboon viper, packed inside; 

6. Mean medicine: a sniffer dog at Heathrow alerted UK Border Agency officers to a passenger arriving from Shanghai, he was found to be carrying 42 dried seahorses to be ground up and used as Chinese traditional medicine; 

7. 8,000-legged suprise: a British man attempted to smuggle 1,000 spiders individually boxed live into his suitcase. The spiders, which included several venomous species such as tarantulas, had been checked in as baggage;

8. Holiday horror: a British couple returning from their Corfu holiday tried to smuggle seven wild tortoises home. They cruelly resorted to taping one of the animals up to stop it moving;

9. Video nasty: UK Border Agency officers at Gatwick Airport discovered three rare Copes Alligator lizards smuggled inside a video tape. The lizards were later safely re-homed;

10. Pigeon mystery: the UK Border Agency’s latest find is perhaps the strangest yet. While officials suspect the birds were destined for restaurant kitchens, no one can explain the old pair of  boots also found in the case.

Notes to Editors

1. For Media enquiries only contact the the Home Press Office on 0207 035 6742.

2. The UK Border Agency is a 25,000-strong organisation with staff operating in 135 countries. The role of UK Border Agency is to:

• Strengthen our borders
• Facilitate legitimate travel and trade
• Tackle illegal immigration, fraud and smuggling

3. UK Border Agency works around the clock, everyday of the year. More than 9,200 officers carry out the specialist work around the UK’s ports and airports, harbours, marinas and private airfields of securing and managing the UK border. The officers do this by ensuring only legitimate travellers and goods enter and leave the UK.

4. Certain goods are restricted or banned completely from entering the UK, even if you are travelling from within the European Union. These include: firearms, offensive weapons, live animals, endangered species of plants and animals, including souvenirs made from endangered species, certain fur skins and articles made from fur skin, certain radio transmitters and rough (ie uncut or unpolished) diamonds.

5. For more information visit .

6. For pictures please visit


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