Parrot aboard tycoon's boat ruffles officials' feathers in New Zealand

A parrot on the luxury yacht of Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovic may have to be locked up in New Zealand over fears the oil billionaire's feathered friend could carry bird flu or other diseases, officials said Tuesday.

The African gray parrot is aboard the giant yacht Le Grand Bleu, currently visiting the South Pacific nation of Tonga. It was not immediately clear if Abramovic, owner of British soccer club Chelsea, was on the vessel.

Crew members have contacted officials in hopes of visiting areas round New Zealand, causing a flurry of concern about the parrot.

"We don't import live birds at all. We do import ... poultry eggs from Australia, the U.S., the U.K. and Canada, but we don't do live birds," said Phil Barclay, senior communications adviser at Biosecurity New Zealand.

"Our problem is the potential that the parrot has to carry a number of diseases" _ including up to 15 strains of bird flu _ he said.

New Zealand only lets in exotic plants and animals under strict laws. The process can take months.

"We do not have an import health standard for parrots," Barclay said. "We don't even have a standard for parrots in transit."

He said options were being explored for Abramovic's pet to be held in quarantine in the northern city of Auckland or "constrained on the boat" during the yacht's visit.

"It's a good, quirky yarn, but there are some serious underlying issues ... as there are a number of bird diseases which don't necessarily show symptoms," Barclay said, AP reported. V.A.

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