Cockatoo permitted to stay on cruise ship

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A stowaway cockatoo from Brisbane has enjoyed a luxury cruise around New Zealand after biosecurity officials allowed it to stay on the vessel.

The cruise ship alerted the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) about the stowaway as it approached Milford on 25 January.

"The only way for the ship to enter New Zealand was to have the bird euthanised or secured and bonded to the vessel," says Andrew Spelman, MPI's border clearance services manager.

The bird could have been carrying avian diseases with the potential to harm New Zealand's native bird population.

Thankfully for the cockatoo (an Australian galah), it was able to be captured and secured in an unoccupied cabin where it was subject to strict conditions.

"We needed photographic evidence of its containment and the name of an officer responsible for looking after the bird. There was also a requirement for MPI officers to check on the bird and its containment facilities at every new port visit in New Zealand.

 "The vessel operators have been very particular in following our directive, so we're satisfied any biosecurity risk has been mitigated."

The story looks like it will have an even happier ending after the vessel leaves New Zealand this week, says Mr Spelman. An MPI quarantine officer was able to determine the cockatoo had a microchip that matched the number of a missing bird from Brisbane.

"We have word from Australian officials that it can be reunited with its owner in Brisbane when it returns home, as long as it passes an examination by a departmental vet."

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