Cape Town - They peer from the rafters, ruffling their feathers and cooing as cars search for parking spots below.
These are the pigeons animal welfare activists and vets have accused Cavendish Square’s property management of inadvertently “trapping” in the mall’s parking garage.
According to Steve Kitley, a vet at the Riverside Veterinary Clinic, the building’s problems began after nylon nets were draped along the open sections of the parking garage four years ago.
“This was meant to keep the birds out, but the problem is the pigeons are still finding a way in.”
He said most pigeons could not escape.
“And now they are even breeding in there. So we end up with birds who have no idea what the outside world even looks like.”
When Kitley went to assess the bird population in the garage, he noted that the flock consisted of about 60 feral pigeons.
Members of the public and the garage’s management have been feeding the birds, but the vet was still concerned about the health of the younger pigeons.
“The juvenile birds we caught were thin and did not have full crops... When the birds were fed, the young pigeons would be bullied out of the way and forced to scavenge around for scraps.”
Kitley said there was no easy solution to the problem, but if something was not done soon the parking garage ran the risk of becoming a bird sanctuary as pigeon populations inside began to soar.
However, there is someone who believes he has the answer.
“It’s obvious that these nets just serve as a trap. What I suggested is that the parking garage’s management rather use the nets to cover up the places the birds like to roost,” said advocate Paul Hoffman.
“It’s a simple answer which benefits both the birds and the building. At the moment the pigeons are making a nuisance of themselves, damaging people’s cars by scratching the paint or leaving their droppings all over the place.”
He also proposed that bird houses be installed at the top of the building to give the pigeons more attractive accommodation, and to lure other pigeons away from the parking garage.
Hoffman said he sent the suggestion to Old Mutual Property – which is responsible for the management of the building – but had not received a response.
“It just feels like they are dragging their heels.”
But Brett Glasby, the SPCA’s wildlife unit manager, said he been in contact with Old Mutual, who were already involved in an “adequate” long-term management project.
The company’s Feeding and Liberation programme involved feeding the pigeons twice a day while giving them the opportunity to leave the building.
“There are definitely no pigeons dying from starvation,” Glasby said, addressing claims that some of the population was struggling to find food.
He applauded the building’s management for taking a humane approach to the problem.
“Most companies would just hire a pest control company to exterminate them. But (Old Mutual) don’t want to trap or poison them. They want to show that this can be handled in an ethical way.”
Cape Town animal welfare activist Clifton Roux said he had asked to sit in on the next Feeding and Liberation session because he was not convinced it would work. - Cape Argus