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Saturday, April 26, 2014

pigeons seized by Chennai Customs ~ death of P mail... and homing pigeons

Rock, Pink, Eurasian collared, wood, Mourning, Magnificent fruit, Victoria crowned,  Crowned sandgrouse , Indian fantail, Indian fantasy, Mondain, Iran roller, Italian Owl, Laudino Sevillano Cropper, Lenardo, Naked Neck Tumbler,  Nish Highflyer, Norwich Cropper  and much more……. If you are wondering what this is all about ~ these are some of the varieties of Pigeons…… those lovely birds…. the  word ‘pigeon’ is derived from the Latin word ‘pipio’, meaning ‘young cheeping bird’. It is also known as ‘dove’ which is of Norse origin. Pigeons are commonly found on Temples – the walls of Sri Parthasarathi Swami Temple have them in large numbers. I had once posted of the thousands that gather everyday morning opposite the famous Vivekanandar House or to be precise opposite the Lady Willington teachers’ training institution.  Pigeons and doves constitute the bird ‘clade Columbidae’  that include some 310 species.    What has amazed Scientists and researchers for centuries is their ability to find their homes and fly back, even if it is hundreds of miles away……… pigeons released from any location tend to head straight home with amazing accuracy.  

From time immemorial, man has domesticated pigeons using them for delivering communication – the bird-mail – often you can see them transporting important messages in historical films and more so between amorous lovers….. !!  ~ the ones that fly across is a special breed known popularly as “homers” ~ the homing pigeons.  They have the ability and "map sense"  of  their geographic location and the "compass sense" ~ finding their direction back home. There are competitions for the Pigeons testing the duration of their flight as also the distance that they travel back home. 

Often we hear of smuggling of rare species of animals and birds. At the time of disembarking, the  arriving passengers have to declare the dutiable items that they are carrying as also declare that they are not carrying seeds, plants, wildlife, star fish and the like……….. some time back there was a  queer attempt of smuggling  cat-eyed sname, the parcel reportedly booked in Trichy and destined for Slovakia. The address of the sender turned out to be fake. 

Today’s TOI has a news that 30 pigeons were seized from a flyer and sent back to Saudi Arabia. The news report stated that  Customs officials at Chennai airport on Monday early morning stopped a passenger who arrived by a Saudia flight and seized 30 pigeons worth 30 lakh. The birds, all homing pigeons, were sent back on the same Saudia flight as they were classified as a protected species under the Wildlife Act and there was a ban on bringing them into the country. 

              During interrogation, Mustafa, a native of Ramanathapuram, told officials he was a pigeon enthusiast. He had paid Rs 1 lakh each for the homing pigeons that he wanted to take to his native village for pigeon racing. He said he had purchased them from a racing pigeon enthusiast in Saudi Arabia. Mustafa pleaded with authorities to let him take the birds home but officials refused citing the law. Officials said he became emotional and that it was difficult to reason with him. Mustafa was allowed to go.

Strange … 30 pigeons ! – how were they carried – in hand luggage or in any box placed with the air carrier – then sure it would have been subjected to scanning… the hand luggage would have been subjected to physical check – how could he get through !!!

The homing pigeons are selectively bred to find its way home over extremely long distances. There are competitions testing their duration of flight and distance of return. There are many such clubs in North Madras.. Tuticorin is famous for this race. There is the  Valarpirai Racing club actively engaged in this sport for over  2 decades.  The reared pigeons are let off from places as distant as Rajahmundry in AP and have to reach within the allotted time – the distance for the birds (as the crow flies they say) is closer to 1000 km.

Some reports state that in Afghan – the Taliban banned the keeping and using homing pigeons…….. another interesting BBC report of Mar 2002 suggested that homing pigeons were employed till the dawn of this century by certain remote police departments in Odisha state in eastern India to provide emergency communication services following natural disasters. In March 2002, it was announced that India's Police Pigeon Service messenger system in Odisha was to be retired, due to the expanded use of the Internet.  The Govt audit suggested that the service - employing some 800 birds - had become redundant with the advent of e-mail and electronic communication. The pigeon courier service dates back to 1946 - a year before India's independence from Britain - when it was handed to the police by the army and had its headquarters in Cuttack.

The report stated that according to the AG's office, the expenses were around 500,000 rupees ($10,260) a year. P-mail, as carrier pigeons are sometimes known, were extensively used in Orissa during floods in 1982 and a cyclone in 1999, as radio networks were disrupted. Those pigeons retired from the service at that time were reportedly given to the state's wildlife department.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

22nd Aug 2013.

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