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On Tuesday, a pigeon in India was released after spending eight months locked up for suspicion of Chinese spying. Pigeons have historically served as effective messengers due to their remarkable homing abilities, navigating vast distances with precision and reliability. Their innate instinct allows them to return to their specific location even when released into unfamiliar territories. For these reasons, they are effective spy birds.
Reports from Radio Free Asia, a U.S. government-funded radio station, suggest that China is operating a military pigeon unit at the Guilin Joint Logistics Support Center in Kunming, China. The news agency Press Trust of India announced Tuesday that a pigeon suspected of being a Chinese spy was cleared of any wrongdoing and released into the wild. The pigeon had been detained for 8 months prior to its release.
Why It Was Detained
The bird was captured in May near a port in Mumbai, India. It had two rings tied to its legs with words on them that looked Chinese. This prompted authorities to detain the pigeon based on suspicion of Chinese spying.
It was discovered that the pigeon was not a Chinese spy but was actually an open-water racing bird. The bird wound up escaping and eventually ended up in India. It came from Taiwan, not China.
Originally, the suspected spy bird was sent to Mumbai’s Bai Sakarbai Dinshaw Petit Hospital for Animals. After it was revealed that the pigeon was not a spy, it was transferred to the Bombay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The doctors at the facility then set the bird free.
The animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), intervened on behalf of the pigeon, advocating for its release. They contacted the police in Mumbai, asking “to grant formal permission for the hospital to release the pigeon.”
India’s Laws Regarding The Caging Of Birds
PETA reports that in 2011, an Indian court declared that birds possess a fundamental right to live freely in the open sky. Subsequently, a 2015 order prohibited the confinement of birds in cages throughout the country.
Pakistani Fisherman’s Pigeon
In 2020, another pigeon was suspected of espionage. After conducting an investigation, authorities in India freed a pigeon that was owned by a Pakistani fisherman. The bird had crossed the heavily fortified border between the nuclear-armed nations of Pakistan and India.
Pigeon With A Note Threatening Prime Minister
In 2016, a pigeon was taken into custody in India after police found it carrying a note that threatened Prime Minister Modi. The note was in Urdu and is roughly translated to say, “Modi, we’re not the same people from 1971. Now each and every child is ready to fight against India.” The note was signed by Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
Pigeons Have Been Used For Thousands Of Years
The use of birds for spying and carrying information has a fascinating history that dates back centuries. One of the earliest instances can be traced to ancient civilizations such as Persia and Egypt, where pigeons were employed to deliver messages across long distances. These birds were admired for their homing instincts, allowing them to reliably return to their designated roosts, making them valuable messengers.
Pigeons In Medieval Europe And Modern Warfare
During the medieval and Renaissance periods, various European powers harnessed birds’ natural behaviors for espionage purposes. Carrier pigeons became particularly popular, with both military and civilian applications. Notable instances include their utilization during World War I and II, where they played a crucial role in transmitting messages between distant locations when traditional communication methods were compromised.
WWI & WWII
As reported by the Smithsonian Magazine, over 100,000 pigeons were deployed in World War I, and their numbers rose to over 250,000 in World War II. Among these pigeons was Cher Ami, a courageous bird who delivered 12 vital messages at Verdun and sustained injuries while delivering the final one. In recognition of its valiant service in action, the pigeon was honored with the French Croix de Guerre medal.
Sam Whisnant is a college student with a talent for writing and a natural curiosity about the world. He combines his academic pursuits with a passion for sharing knowledge in a way that is both informative and engaging to his readers.