Pigeons a serious health risk

The environmental and health risks posed by avian overpopulation cannot be overlooked

The government and Bangkok Metropolitan Administration are addressing the long-standing urban problem of pigeon overpopulation. The ban that the city has imposed on feeding wild pigeons is well overdue, but then, better late than never. The birds’ numbers in our cities have skyrocketed, in turn multiplying health and environmental concerns.

Such threats are taken very seriously indeed in some foreign cities, where the story all began the same way – the charming sight of flocks of friendly, near-tame pigeons fluttering around landmarks and monuments, enlivening tourist snapshots and providing cheer to residents with breadcrumbs to share.

The overall relaxing experience was soon replaced by annoyance and even alarm as the populations exploded, however, and their existence became regarded as nothing more than a nuisance and a health menace.

So nets of all sizes are set out to catch them, professional pest removers are hired and, in some cases, the birds are poisoned. But, once ensconced in a location and inured to human habits, pigeons hold fast and keep on breeding. These cousins of the rock dove, which dwells on seaside cliffs, might still be feral, but they’re every bit as urbanised and adaptive as their human neighbours. As human admiration for them fades, they come to be seen as flying rats.

Their coastal cliffs are now tall city buildings, their diet the abundant residual scraps of human existence. And where natural predators and limitations in the food supply once controlled flock sizes, the tolerance, generosity – and apathy – of humankind has allowed them to flourish endlessly amid the bricks and concrete.

If incensed people install deterrent spikes in the birds’ chosen breeding and nesting sites, they simply fly elsewhere. More lethal measures against them have been known to fail spectacularly, merely triggering further adaptive evolution and backfiring on their enemies.

What the Bangkok administration is trying to do now is discourage citizens from feeding the pigeons. Harsh penalties for doing so have been prescribed and a large-scale public-awareness campaign is underway.

It’s an assuredly light-handed approach – and it has not worked in several overseas cities similarly plagued. City Hall will meanwhile have to brace for objections likely to come from animal-rights activists, of which Thailand has many loud and well-organised examples.

One tactic in the age-old battle between man and pigeon that seemed ingenious at first was luring the birds to nice-looking artificial breeding facilities, then replacing their eggs with infertile facsimiles. A pigeon hen is ready to lay more eggs immediately after a brood is hatched, but this trickery kept her sitting on fake eggs in vain for days. It has worked in some cases – but the investment required in human cost, time and effort is daunting.

The pigeon issue is a real problem, like drug abuse, poor education standards, inequality in the judicial process, and rampant traffic law violations, which have received far less public and media attention than the more abstract issues. Real problems creep in slowly and fester. They don’t show up all of a sudden, as the general public is led to believe.

The campaign against the birds must be carried out systematically and with long-lasting resolve. The problem must not be overshadowed by political rivalry once a new administration is in place.

Times comment:- The “do-gooders” must not be allowed to interfere with this serious health issue. The pigeons have to be caught and destroyed throughout the country. As stated, they are simply flying rats and have to be treated as such.

(Source:-The Nation, Thailand)

By Juninho