Following the intervention of an animal welfare organization, a pigeon that spent eight months in Indian police custody was released this week.
According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India, the pigeon was suspected of spying for China.
India’s RCF Police Station in Mumbai found the pigeon in May 2023, with writing on its wings, but the message was illegible.
The pigeon was sent to Bai Sakarbai Dinshaw Petit Hospital for Animals to be examined medically and investigated.
Months later, the animal hospital asked police if they could release the bird, since the bird was healthy and was taking up a cage at the hospital.
Times of India reports that the bird was caught at a port in the financial capital, Mumbai, with “messages written in a Chinese-like script” on its wings.
“Initially, the police had registered a case of spying against the bird, but after completing their inquiry, they dropped the charge,” the report added.
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PETA India said police had granted “formal permission for the hospital to release the pigeon” on Wednesday.
According to reports from Radio Free Asia, a United States (US) government-funded radio station, China runs a pigeon military unit at its Guilin Joint Logistics Support Center in Kunming, Yunnan province.
Militaries have previously used pigeons to carry out operations. During World War I, more than 100,000 pigeons flew missions as part of the U.S. Army Signal Corps in France.
One famous pigeon, Cher Ami, was used to deliver 12 messages in Verdun, France during the war, but was shot and killed in 1918, according to the Smithsonian Magazine.
His last message delivery helped save 194 troops.
Similarly, the British military deployed about 250,000 pigeons during World War II.