‘Operation Ornery Birds’: Bird Traffickers Convicted Of Fowl Play

(Photo by BASTIEN INZAURRALDE/AFP via Getty Images)

Ilan Hulkower Contributor
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Ernesto Gonzalez Campos, a 36-year-old Florida man, was convicted last week by the Department of Justice (DOJ) of three counts of trafficking protected birds.

Campos was accused of capturing, selling and trading “protected migratory songbirds” on at least three occasions between 2020 and 2021, a DOJ press release published Thursday noted. (RELATED: US Zoo Forced To Apologize After Mistreatment Of Bird Angers An Entire Nation)

The various kinds of songbirds Campos trafficked were protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), the DOJ reported. The MBTA, first passed in 1918, implements international conservation treaties the United States signed with Canada (in 1916), Mexico (in 1936), Japan (in 1972) and Russia (in 1976), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service noted. The treaty act “is among the oldest wildlife protection laws on the books,” according to the National Audubon Society.

Five other Floridians pleaded guilty to similar violations in recent months and were fined between $200 and $1,000 in addition to a year’s probation or supervised release, the DOJ’s press release noted. All six convictions resulted from the since-concluded “Operation Ornery Birds II,” which the DOJ described as “a Florida-wide investigation conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.”

The maximum sentence for a misdemeanor violation of the MBTA is a $5,000 fine and imprisonment for six months for an individual or a $10,000 fine for an organization, the United States. A felony offense may carry a two-year jail sentence along with a $250,000 fine for an individual or $100,000 for an organization, EPA stated.