Police Find The Saddest Thing Packed Into The Back Of A Bus

Hundreds of them were crowded together in tiny boxes — with no food or water.

The birds would have been absolutely terrified. 

Earlier this week, Peruvian police and customs officials intercepted a bus carrying 581 wild finches packed into boxes. Wildlife traffickers had captured the finches from the forest, and shoved them into the small wooden cages.

Then they loaded the cages onto a bus in Arequipa, Peru, which was being driven in the direction of Bolivia, according to a news source.

Officials found wild birds inside wooden cages
Officials found 581 wild birds in tiny wooden cages on a bus in Peru. | Serfor Perú

The birds had no food or water, and they had very little ventilation.

“It looks as if they were packed into them [the cages], and being wild birds, they certainly would have suffered high levels of stress,” Richard Thomas, global communications coordinator for TRAFFIC, an organization that campaigns against wildlife smuggling, told The Dodo. “According to the media report, a significant number perished.”

Trafficked wild birds in wooden cages
Serfor Perú

Officials confiscated the wild finches, who were being transported without the necessary permits. Then the officials sent the birds to a safe location where they could be rehabilitated. An official investigation is currently underway.

But sadly, help had come too late for many of the birds — only 60 of them ended up surviving, Lissete Milagros Herrera Casas, press specialist for Servicio Nacional Forestal y de Fauna Silvestre del Ministerio de Agricultura y Riego (Serfor Perú), told The Dodo.

Trafficked wild birds in wooden cages
Serfor Perú

The birds were saffron finches, a species that is frequently captured and transported from other countries to Brazil for bird singing competitions, despite the fact that they’re actually found in the wild in Brazil, according to Thomas.

For this reason, Thomas suspects that the birds’ final destination wasn’t Bolivia, but Brazil.

Rescued saffron finches in cage
Some of the surviving saffron finches in a cage at a rehabilitation center | Serfor Perú

“Saffron finches there [in Brazil] are hugely popular in bird singing tournaments, where they are known as  ‘canario da terra,’ and large sums of money frequently change hands by those who bet on whose bird is the best singer during bird song competitions," Thomas said.

“However, bird breeders in Brazil … [believe] the locally-bred saffron finches lose their aggressiveness in singing tournaments, so new wild individuals with ‘fierce blood’ are needed to maintain the quality of the contests,” he added. “The breeders consider birds from Peru ... more aggressive than those found in Brazil. Although larger, birds from Brazil are crossed with the smaller but bolder Peruvian birds to create the ‘ideal’ combination of size and temperament to win tournaments.”

Rescued birds in cage
Some of the surviving saffron finches in a cage at a rehabilitation center | Serfor Perú

At the moment, both the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and BirdLife International classify the saffron finch as a species of “least concern,” which means that they are not viewed as a threatened or endangered species. This is primarily because the saffron finch has a large range throughout South America, and the species at large doesn’t appear to be in decline.

Rescued birds in cages
Some of the surviving saffron finches in a cage at a rehabilitation center | Serfor Perú

But this doesn’t mean that the saffron finch is completely safe, according to Thomas. And there may be local population declines, especially since the birds are frequently trafficked.

“Just because a species is common doesn't mean it's safe of course,” Thomas said. “There's no better example of the flaw in that thinking than the passenger pigeon, once the commonest birds in North America. The last one fell off its perch and died at the Cincinnati Zoo on September 1, 1914.”

To help keep wild birds like these safe, you can make a donation to the National Audubon Society or TRAFFIC.