Breeding 'stems pigeon numbers'

SWITZERLAND has found the answer to a sanitary problem that has haunted Admiral Nelson for decades: the only way to control the pigeon population is to breed them, writes Steve Connor.

Killing them was useless, according to Daniel Haag- Wackernagel, the scientist in charge of the anti-pigeon project in Basel. He found that mass extermination of adults only created room for juveniles to thrive.

He said a better approach was to breed colonies in lofts. The birds were healthier and control easier as eggs could be taken from the nest before hatching.

A four-year project has reduced the pigeon population by half, from about 1,400 in 1988 to nearly 700 in 1992, he said.

Previous attempts over 20 years using killing, sterilisation, and a ban on feeding failed, Dr Haag- Wackernagel writes in the science journal Nature. The city authorities also tackled the 'mental attitudes' of the pigeon-feeding public, emphasising how overcrowding caused the birds to suffer.

'We have found a satisfactory change in the mental attitude of the public,' Dr Haag- Wackernagel says. 'Feeding pigeons has become a taboo and only a few incorrigible people continue.'

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