Hyderabad takes note of hazards posed by pigeons, puts them on notice

HYDERABAD: The blue rock pigeon, one of the commonest birds in urban areas, has been given notice. At least at the main entrance of the KBR National Park in Banjara Hills. Every morning and in the evening, a man armed with a stick stands guard there and drives the birds away from the driveway outside the park gates.

“It is my turn to do this job now,” says Sridhar, a guard at the park, who otherwise patrols its pathway that is popular with morning and evening walkers.”We used to have hundreds of pigeons here, but now this place is clean,” he says, pointing to the cemented stretch with pride. “Yesterday, I asked sweepers (employed by the municipal corporation) to clear this place of droppings. See how clean it looks today,” says Sridhar, beaming with pride after a job well done. “We paid them extra money , given by our officials.”

KBR National Park has been for some time a favourite spot for people to feed pigeons, with nearly a couple of thousand birds converging at the gates. “The situation was getting out of hand and there were even complaints from road users that when the birds flew in large numbers, they were obstructing traffic,” says district forest officer Vinod Kumar. “So a decision was taken to try and get the place clean again.After all, hundreds of people come to the park for morning and evening walks and runs, and we cannot put their health in danger.”
Explains senior veterinarian and former ‘zoo doctor’, M Naveen Kumar, “Pigeons in large numbers are known to carry bird influenza (bird flu) and even avian tuberculosis.While bird flu is passed on to humans, in case of avian tuberculosis, it is a two-way street. Humans catch it from birds and birds can catch TB from humans.”

But with no studies ever conducted in Hyderabad on the health impact of large congregations of blue rock pigeons on humans who come in close contact with them, Naveen says the case so far is of “noth ing reported, nobody both ered”.

Studies like the one pub lished in the Indian Journal of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology by Shrikant Deo and nine other researchers in 2014 establish that feral pigeons are “reservoirs and potential vectors of a large number of microorganisms… causing infections and allergic diseases that can be lethal.” The 2014 study says that direct contact with pigeons is not required for humans to catch such diseases. “Pathogens can be transmitted to humans mainly via excreta, secretions, or dust from feathers spread in the environment.”

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