Over 2700 Pigeons Lost During South Africa’s Racing Season


South Africa’s National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) is again concerned by the low number of pigeons that have returned to their loft of the South African Million Dollar Pigeon Race (SAMDPR), which took place on Saturday, February 1st, 2020.

1548 pigeons were released in the early morning of February 1st, 2020 in the Northern Cape and were expected to make their way back to their loft in Sasolburg, some 600 kilometers [about 373 miles]away, but to date, only 675 pigeons have returned which means that 60% are still missing.

The pigeons used for pigeon racing are bred in captivity and spend their lives in the care of humans, making them completely dependent on humans to survive. They are easy prey to predators and do not know how to protect themselves from the elements or even how to forage for themselves.

Racing pigeons in San Francisco, California. Racing pigeons are a different variety than the common pigeon or rock dove, and are unable to fend for themselves when raised by humans. Image credit kqedquest, CC BY-SA 2.0.

The NSPCA is aware that at the beginning of the training season, 3377 pigeons were released during the first training flight. This means that between training and hot spot races, and the actual Million Dollar race, 1829 pigeons went missing or died before the main event, totaling a disappearance of 2702 pigeons during the entire season.

“It is shocking that 80% of the pigeons disappeared during the entire season, and that these losses seem to be accepted by the pigeon racing fraternity. No one is able to confirm the fate of these sentient creatures – this race takes place in one of the hottest months of the year with scarce water sources along the route and other adverse weather conditions such as thunder storms; one can only imagine the suffering that these birds endure” said Senior Inspector Arno De Klerk, manager of the NSPCA’s Special Projects Unit.

The environmental impact that this could have if surviving birds join South Africa’s growing feral population is also cause for concern – the pigeon is a non-native species with a rapid reproduction rate. This is a serious concern for the environment as well as the birds’ welfare.

The NSPCA remains opposed to animal racing in all forms.

Featured image: a close-up of a racing pigeon. Image credit Ed Munoz, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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About Author

The NSPCA was founded in 1955 as the Federation of SPCAs to provide a forum to bring uniformity to welfare legislation and standards. The SPCAs in South Africa are governed by the SPCA Act 169 of 1993 which is administered by the NSPCA, constituting us as a statutory body. Inspectors are authorised in terms of the Animals Protection Act 71 of 1962 and the Performing Animals Protection Act No. 24 of 1935 with the SPCA movement collectively undertaking over 90% of all animal welfare investigations and prosecutions in South Africa. The NSPCA operates on a national basis with a team of dedicated Inspectors, who are specialists in their fields. We work tirelessly to protect animals from neglect and abuse and enforce the Animals Protection Act 71 of 1962 when deliberate cruelty takes place. The lives of tens of thousands of animals are improved because of our passion, our intervention, and our commitment to bring about long-term positive change for farmed animals, wildlife, research animals, domestics and animals used in entertainment and sport. In a country that spans over a million square kilometres, there are areas where there is no SPCA, no animal welfare organisations and no veterinary services. The NSPCA plays a vital role in bringing extraordinary support to these people and their animals. Click to see author's profile.

1 Comment

  1. Virginia Bell on

    Do you have an email address we can write to, to express opposition to these pigeon racing events?

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