Sunday, August 21, 2005

Gibraltar strikes back against the pigeon 'menace'

200 pigeons culled on Church rooftops

Gibraltar’s seasonal problem with the proliferation of pigeons in the city centre and around housing estates seems to be going from bad to worse.

The public uproar against these disease carrying feathered pests is the same as in previous years, but the recurrence of the nuisance would suggest that the issue is not being dealt with the forcefulness it requires.

Although the Gibraltar Government has a budget for pigeon and other pest control systems, there is a clear demand from public opinion for more effective action.

Ordinary citizens often express their unhappiness with the current situation, and the ‘Letters to the Editor’ section has become a regular outlet for such grievances.

The infestation is not just nuisance and a health hazard – it is also an enemy of heritage buildings and statues. And the problem has got so out of hand that private housing estates and now the Cathedral of St Mary the Crowned have been forced to take drastic action.

The Church has contracted Bug Busters a private local pest control company that has already culled over 600 pigeons around Gibraltar this summer. At least a third of that number have been trapped on the roofs and belfry of the cathedral.

The dead animals are then frozen, disinfected and given as food to convalescing birds of prey who are the natural predators of these pigeons, and are being nursed back to fitness in local veterinary clinics.

Bug Busters belongs to former taxi-driver John Fortunato who swapped the four wheels of his taxi for a trade in the field of rodent, insect and pest control. A member of the British Pest Control Association John’s method of strategically placed lures and cages has already produced good results. What were previously no-go areas like the Church’s terraces even the belfry, have been cleared of pigeons and their droppings, while nettings have been installed to stop these unwanted visitors gaining access into the clock.

“We even had to use full personal protection equipment to clear up some enclosed areas,” said Mr Fortunato.

Regrettably, the battle against these pests is far from over.

“People keep feeding pigeons in the street and no-one takes any action to stop it. These animals carry disease, and transport fleas and ticks,” he remarked.

Technically speaking, feeding animals in the street constitutes a litter offence which can result in a fine. However, in order to act police have to receive a complaint first and it seems that despite the regular complaints about the feeding of pigeons, no-one has thought about formally reporting this to them.

Although the Government is already paying for culling operations, Mr Fortunato reckons the job is not being done. He is prepared to take on a Government contract or even to be sub-contracted from whoever has already been engaged to deal with the problem.

“We offer a professional service and dispose of the animals in a humane manner. The pigeon population needs to be culled and kept under control, not wiped out. We can provide a proper service to achieve this,” he declared.

Bug Busters also deal with cockroach infestation and chemical safety. Mr Fortunato can be contacted on 54976000.

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