IT’S a story Alf Stewart from Home and Away would love, with a stowaway galah on board a luxury cruise ship causing a flap on both sides of the Tasman.
According to a statement from the Department of Agriculture, the galah, named Harri, bypassed strict processes and left Australia on January 21 on board cruise ship Sea Princess bound for New Zealand.
Harri was discovered on the ship on January 24, reportedly catching some sun as the vessel approached Fiordland in the South Island.
Australian and New Zealand biosecurity officials reportedly worked together with the cruise operators to manage the biosecurity risks.
Acting Head of Biosecurity Animal Division at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Jackie South, said Australia and New Zealand enforce strict biosecurity conditions on birds.
“Australia and New Zealand both have strict biosecurity conditions for bird imports, due to the risk of exotic diseases to our environments and unique native birds, as well as egg and poultry industries,” Ms South said.
“In this case, upon finding Harri the ship’s crew sought advice from New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI), and they alerted biosecurity staff from my department.
“There were signs Harri was a pet bird, due to her microchip and leg ring, and our department tracked down her owners.
“Following negotiation with the ship’s captain and MPI, Australian biosecurity officials set the conditions that needed to be met for Harri to be re-imported with our biosecurity safeguarded, taking into account New Zealand’s avian health status.”
The New Zealand MPI reportedly set clear directives for the cruise operators and Harri spent her holiday in an unoccupied cabin, without contact with other birds.
“On return to Australia she passed a veterinary examination, and has now been returned to her owners—who themselves have just returned from a cruise,” Ms South said.
“She had escaped on 13 January, and is thought to have found her way on to the decks as the ship prepared to depart on 21 January.
“Perhaps Harri felt she too needed a holiday, but Australia and New Zealand treat biosecurity very seriously, especially in regards to foreign species.”
Ms South said it was “fortunate we were able to reach a good outcome, thanks to the cooperation between the vessel operators and Australian and New Zealand’s biosecurity officials”.