Organisers of the South African Million Dollar Pigeon Race (SAMDR) disregarded the NSPCA’s warning and the reports of inclement weather when they transported birds to the liberation site with the undoubted intention of proceeding with the race. Warnings of thunderstorms and heavy rainfall had been forecast along the route that the birds were due to fly.
Personnel from the NSPCA’s Special Projects Unit and the SAPS were present in Colesberg the night before and in the morning when the race was planned to start. Our intention was to prevent the liberation of the birds to race if there was no drastic improvement in the weather. SPCA personnel and SAPS officials were on standby in places on the planned race route to monitor the weather and to respond in case of need.
Fortunately, under pressure from us, the organisers took the decision to cancel the race and to return the birds to the loft which was approximately 570km away.
The 21st annual Million Dollar pigeon race was scheduled to take place on 04 February 2017 from Colesberg in the Northern Cape to the new SAMDR loft which is situated at the Heron Banks Golf Estate in Sasolburg.
About 2 432 pigeons had been placed in baskets and transported to compete in the final race but the number of pigeons originally entered into the loft is currently unknown.
NSPCA Special Projects Unit Manager, Meg Wilson, said that, “The confinement and long distance transportation of these birds is irresponsible and unnecessary, given the adverse weather conditions leading up to the event.”
In previous years, the NSPCA drew attention to the loss of a substantial number of birds – in 2014, over 6 000 birds were entered into the loft but by the time the final race took place, only approximately 3 500 birds remained as 40% of the birds originally entered had disappeared during training events.
Statistics regarding the number of birds returning after the race are equally shocking. In 2014, only approximately 1400 birds completed the race, indicating that only 25% of the birds entered made it back. The first 100 birds to return were sold by auction.
There are valid concerns for the welfare of these birds. Historically, 75% never return. Media Statement, 6 February 2017, NSPCA