On Tuesday, when guards at Costa Rica’s La Reforma Penitentiary observed a pigeon acting strangely just outside the prison gates, they took a closer look.
The pigeon, who was perched on a low branch of a ficas tree, had a small pouch attached to its belly. On inspection, the guards found that the pouch contained marijuana and cocaine. The bird was promptly taken into custody.
According to an official post on the Costa Rica’s Ministry of Justice and Peace Facebook page, the contraband amounted to 14 grams of dope and 14 of coke. The ministry assigned the pigeon the case name of #NarcoPaloma.
News spread quickly about the arrest and there were fears that other pigeons might attempt to spring #Narco, who was being held at the Central San José Police Station. #Narco was questioned by authorities but he wasn’t talking.
It’s certainly not the first time pigeons have been co-opted into ferrying drugs. Narcopalomas have been caught in Colombia, Argentina and Bosnia. In 1998, a pigeon was caught outside the Federal Correctional Institution in Tallahassee, in the U.S., carrying $5,000, apparently for an inside drug deal.
The most famous case of pigeon crime, of course, involved a jack russell terrier in an Ocean City, New Jersey park in 2004. Using a tangle of monofilament, a flock of pigeons ensnared the terrier, who went by the name of Butch, and flew him over the Atlantic Ocean where he was dropped. Witnesses to the crime said that the dog had been chasing pigeons.
Famed Mexican drug outlaw Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán reportedly prefers a different bird species to help him in his pursuits. After he escaped last month from a maximum-security prison in Mexico, authorities found a dead canary in El Chapo’s cell. They think he used the bird to test the air quality in the tunnel through which he supposedly escaped, like coal miners once did.