Birds go missing in South Africa’s Million Dollar Pigeon Race

The organisers of South Africa’s Million DollarPigeon Race confirmed on Tuesday that more than half of its feathered contestants had not yet returned to their perches – four weeks afterthe event.
One of the world’s largest pigeon races came in for criticism from the local animal welfare organisation (NSPCA) which stated that only 40 per cent of the birds had returned after having set off on February 1.
The NSPCA issued a statement last week declaring that of the 1,548 racing pigeons released at the start, only 675 pigeons had reached their destination.
According to NSPCA spokesman Arno de Klerk, pigeons reared incaptivity are easy prey for predators and are unable to forage for themselves in the wild.
However, spokeswoman for the event Joane Holt said that the return rate by Tuesday was closer to 55 per cent and that theft was one possible reason for the high rate of loss.
“Pigeons don’t just disappear,” she said, adding that auctions of stolen pedigree pigeons are known to take place.
According to the NSPCA’s de Klerk, the organisation is opposed to any race that uses animals, adding that besides their welfare, birdsjoining the country’s feral population were also cause for concern.
“The pigeon is considered an invasive species with a rapid reproduction rate,” he said.
The race, which covers a distance of 600 kilometres and has a total prize purse of 1 million dollars, has a long history and attracts breeders and pigeon enthusiasts from around the world. — dpa