Falsehoods and Heroism of Pigeons

It was too pretty to be true. Australia has lived pending the fate of a pigeon that arrived from the United States.

As it was an intercontinental trip, the authorities were inflexible: the same protocol had to be applied as for all (irrational) animals that do not pass the strict sanitary quarantine. That is, euthanize the bird to prevent the spread of disease.

The announcement that the specimen posed a risk to biosecurity divided the country – never better said – between hawks and pigeons.

The first wielded that the bird was not going to be more than Johnny Depp, who in 2015 almost lost his two yorkie puppies, Pistol and Boo, for  smuggling them.

The American actor had to hastily repatriate them on a special flight to avoid being euthanized.

Supporters of saving the dove (a dove, actually) claimed that his odyssey was worthy of forgiveness. Traveling over 13,000 kilometers across the ocean, from one continent to the other, he deserved the treatment accorded to flying aces.

As a wink of fate, the person who found the exhausted bird in the backyard of his house in Melbourne is called Kevin Celli-Bird.

Mr. Celli-Bird named his guest Joe in honor of the new tenant in the White House.

The numbering of the ring of its leg corresponded to a pigeon that on October 29 participated in the Crooked River Challenge, a competition in the United States. Some say it got lost in Oregon; others in Alabama.

Reaching Melbourne is a feat worthy of terns, capable of going from the North Pole to the South Pole.

The first disappointment was not long in coming. The experts explained that Joe could have come from so far, indeed, but not by flying, but as a stowaway on a ship.

Australia had already detected in the past the presence of disoriented pigeons that arrived in freighters from China, where pigeon racing is an emerging passion among the new rich, who pay exorbitant amounts for their whims.

The second disappointment was even worse. Perhaps the most correct name for Joe would have been the outgoing president of the United States, not the incoming.

Yes, Donald, especially because of his penchant for impostures. Deone Roberts, manager of the Oklahoma-based American Racing Pigeon Union, has claimed that Joe’s ring is a fake. Therefore, this could not be the specimen that disappeared in Oregon.

Bad luck for the epic, good luck for the everyday. “The ring is a copy and its origin cannot be traced: it is not necessary to kill the bird. Most likely it is Australian,” says the Union of American Racing Pigeons.

Perhaps the wisest thing to do is to say that Joe is neither from here nor there because he flies. “Don’t go away, / heart with wings!” Exclaims Juan Ramón Jiménez in El bird del agua.

These beings are not from earth, but from heaven. They do not know the borders or the limits. “Look, you’re stupid (…) How are limits going to exist when you fly?” The goose Lyok lyok asks the future King Arthur in The King Who Was and Will Be (Attic of the Books), by TH White.

The same could now be said to the Australian Government, which declared war on Joe and demanded that Kevin Celli-Bird capture him for sacrifice.

Far from obeying the order, this citizen did what the officials should have done: telephone the Crooked River Challenge.

That gesture uncovered the falsehood of the matter and exposed the Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, who had declared that if the pigeon is from the US “there would be no mercy for it: either it flies home or it faces the consequences”. After the call, a sword of Damocles no longer hangs over the bird.

Those responsible for biosecurity will let the matter go. Fly, one would have to say. Something seemed to indicate from the beginning that the now pardoned Joe was not heroic.

What hero frolics in a fountain and goes crazy with a crumbled cookie? Bathing and eating seem to be his main aspirations, in addition to making friends with fellow men in the neighborhood and getting a taste for Mr. Celli-Bird’s patio.

Oblivious to the commotion, her appearance has greatly improved since she appeared. “The dove was wrong”, said Rafael Alberti.

Here others were wrong, although they are legion who believe that our friend is worthy of praise, not for a 13,000-kilometer flight she never made, but simply for having wings. For not knowing borders or limits, like almost all birds. His story also reminds one of another Joe.

And to this other Joe nobody disputes the stripes … Homing pigeons were mobilized during the First and Second World Wars. They were irreplaceable for their ability to fly with messages or even small cameras.

Experts from the Imperial War Museum in London and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington estimate that at least 56,000 were trained between 1944 and 1948.

When the radio transmissions failed, the armies used the pigeons. More than 95% of the messages they carried were successfully delivered.

They could fly at 80 kilometers per hour and easily cover distances of 30 kilometers, although in case of need they could travel up to more than 3,200 kilometers. A total of 32 pigeons were decorated for their services in World War II.

Joe was one of them. Specifically, the pigeon GI Joe, as it was named in honor of the comic that gave the American soldiers a generic name. He was born in a kennel that supplied the Army Pigeon Service or Signal Pigeon Corps of the United States.

The unit, very active from 1914 to 1948, ceased to function in 1957. Thanks to the message carried by this winged recruit, a case of friendly fire that could have been terrible was avoided …

On October 18, 1943, during the Italian campaign, GI Joe was assigned as liaison to the British 56th Infantry Division. These troops dislodged the Germans and took the municipality of Calvi Vecchia much earlier than expected.

It was a success, but very risky: the British did not want to abandon their conquest, even though they knew that the position was going to be bombed by the American air force.

The radio had broken down and only GI Joe could prevent the misfortune. He arrived at the aerodrome where his loft was located, 32 kilometers away, in less than 20 minutes.

The bombers were already about to take off. His feat allowed him to get, among other honors, the Dickin medal, the Animal Victory Cross. It was the first non-British animal (irrational, we recall once again) to obtain it.

Upon his return to the United States, he lived in a military loft in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. In 1957, when the service was dismantled, it was moved to a Detroit zoo.

There he died in 1961, aged 18. Your Australian namesake is unlikely to live that many years. Nor is it very likely that you will be recruited to participate in a war. But that won’t be necessary for you to meet the wildest species in all of creation.

Source: Lavanguardia