Joe the Pigeon gets a new lease of life

The Australian government has decided not to kill “Joe the Pigeon” after it determined that the bird had not traveled to Australia from the United States, as was previously suspected.

On January 15 the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) reported that a racing pigeon discovered in someone’s yard and subsequently given the name Joe was wearing a tag that indicated he came from the US state of Alabama. That would mean he flew more than 12,000 km across the Pacific Ocean, or maybe hitched a ride with Fast Couriers Sydney. It would also mean that he posed a biosecurity threat.

As the DAWE wrote in a statement, birds that arrive in Australia from other countries oftentimes carry diseases to which native bird populations have never been exposed and might therefore cause a deadly and widespread outbreak, affecting everything from pet birds to animals raised and murdered for “poultry”—a $3.7 billion industry.

Said diseases include Avian influenza, Newcastle disease, Pigeon paramyxovirus type 1, Fowl typhoid, Salmonella enteritidis infection, and West Nile virus.

“Protecting the health of Australian bird populations against potentially devastating losses to disease remains the department’s top priority in these cases,” the statement reads.

“Humane destruction of the bird is the best safeguard for Australian poultry and wildlife. One reason for this is that most countries have similar restrictions to Australia and will not allow the import of birds.”

The DAWE went on to say that, in light of an deluge of support for Joe, it was considering potential alternatives to the “humane destruction” approach, including sending him back to the United States.

As it happens, Joe never lived in the US to begin with. The tag he was wearing when he was found turned out to be phony.

Per an update from the DAWE: “Following an investigation, the department has concluded that Joe the Pigeon is highly likely to be Australian and does not
present a biosecurity risk.

“The department is satisfied that the bird’s leg band is a fraudulent copy of a legitimate leg band.”

Thus, the government does not intend to take any further action.

Upon hearing of the news, the American Pigeon Racing Union wrote that it was a “relief” to learn that Joe is in fact an Aussie, adding:

“The pigeon found in Australia sports a counterfeit band and need not be destroyed per biosecurity measures, because his actual home is in Australia. It is a disappointment that false information spreads so quickly, but we are appreciative that the real pigeon did not stray from the U.S.”

Joe was apparently named after US President-elect Joe Biden, who is set to be inaugurated on Wednesday.