Monday, May 12, 2008

Pigeon Population Falls --That was Fast!

According to the Venice city council, the ban on feeding pigeons is already working. The following article from explains it all. I took the photo in 2006 from the roof of the basilica and shows the piazza San Marco -- complete with pigeons, tourists and feed sellers. If the city council's plan works, this will be just a memory.

Venice pigeon population falls
City- wide ban on feeding birds working, council says

(ANSA) - Venice, May 12 -

Venice city council on Monday was celebrating the first sign that it may be winning its long battle against the city's population of pigeons, once described by mayor Massimo Cacciari as "flying rats".

According to city environment chief Pierantonio Belcaro, the number of pigeons flocking to St Mark's Square is already dropping after the council extended a bird feeding ban city-wide and forced the piazza's 19 licensed birdseed sellers to shut up shop.

"Revoking the licenses of the birdseed stalls and capturing ill birds are proving to be valid tools for the reduction of pigeon numbers, although solving the problem is likely to take two or three years." Belcaro said.

He added that on Monday a new council task force in charge of dealing with pigeons, mice and mosquitoes in the lagoon city had decided to draft in a bird of prey to help scare the pigeons away.

Falcons are already used in other Italian cities and airports to ward birds from monuments - which can be damaged by acidic guano - and prevent air strikes.

Venice has for years been trying to cut its estimated 40,000-strong pigeon population, which produces thousands of tonnes of droppings a day.

While many visitors to the lagoon city find its flocks of pigeons charming, the council says they are a public health menace and a nuisance, eroding the city's historic facades and statues.

Controversial efforts at controlling the pigeons have included trapping the birds in nets and removing them from the square.

Animal rights campaigners crossed swords with the council earlier this month following the eviction the birdseed sellers from St Mark's Square, accusing the city of a "shameful massacre" by hunger and distributing 30 kilos of birdseed to flocks of ravenous birds. Local people became less sympathetic to the pigeons' plight last year after a report by the Nomisma research group found that the presence of the birds in Venice costs each resident some 275 euros a year to clean up the mess and damage.

Some experts even claim the excrement, by eroding flagstones, has increased the risk of the "acqua alta" that puts the square under water for much of the winter.

Reducing the numbers of pigeons is just part of Venice's strategy to ensure the city stays clean and maintains its charm despite the presence of 20 million visitors a year.

Volunteer patrols of 'guardian angels' wander the city to prevent "indecorous behavior" among tourists, which the city has decided includes sitting on the pavement, eating sandwiches there or going bare-chested.

The city is working on laws to stop the sale of fast food in St Mark's Square so as to limit the amount of rubbish that accumulates there and which street cleaners can only remove once a day.

On Monday the council said it is also planning to fine beggars up to 500 euros, and confiscate their day's takings, if they are caught asking for money in tourist areas of the city.

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