FOUR HUNDRED pigeons have been captured by Setúbal Câmara and handed over to Lisbon Zoo as animal feed. This is the new method of urban pigeon control by the municipal authority, which says pigeons have become a plague in the city, carrying diseases such as typhus and gastroenteritis.
According to studies carried out in Lisbon, there are as many as 23,000 pigeons. Lisbon Câmara has opted, since 2002, for controlling the pests by feeding them grain laced with contraceptives. Marc Ryan, a vet attached to the Portuguese Carrier Pigeon and Pigeon Fancier Federation, leaves no room for doubt: “Pigeons cause disease and should not co-habit alongside human beings.”
An example of this problem is illustrated by the ticks and lice carried by pigeons that have already closed down the Neonatal Unit at Setúbal’s São Bernardo Hospital. The câmara, however, has denied that the reason the hospital unit was closed down twice was as a direct result of illnesses carried via pigeons. It also denied that its pest control services had been directly solicited by the hospital authorities.
Councillor André Martins said that the situation in the hospital was their own internal affair and, as such, had to be dealt with by their authorities. There has to be vigilance and strict control of pigeon nests in places concerning public health. However, the councillor did say that the câmara was resolved to reducing the numbers of pigeons in the town, which is already common practice in cities such as Paris, London and Venice.
In the US, falcons have been introduced in cities such as New York as a natural alternative to control the pest. Laying down poison has proved disastrously ineffective, since it kills not only pigeons, but other wild and domestic animals. In Switzerland, studies have shown that there is a direct link between rising pigeon numbers and local inhabitants feeding them, which should be discouraged.