When the doves flew home…March 24, 2012, 4:42 pm
By Maheen Senanayake
I made my way into the inconspicuous turn just past the Wattala Junction only to find that the concrete road ended in a water body. As a cat struck by headlights, I halted in my tracks to admire the serenity of the view framed in my windshield. I only wished I had done justice to the view by having washed the car that morning. Alas through the dusty glass, I watched the low hanging branches caress the dutiful and gentle waves of the brownish water as a slight breeze swept through the area. The security guard was all circumspect and very quickly channeled me into the premises of my host, Lony or technically Mr. de Lanerolle. With pleasantness and warmth he immediately took me to the cages housing his beloved birds, the homing pigeons that he had been training for well over decades. Homing pigeons? You might ask. What in heaven’s name is he doing with homing pigeons. Well that is exactly what I sought to find out.
"I have had them fly in from Jaffna, Anuradhapura and I am sure they can do it from Trinco as well.. ’’ he added, noting that Trincomalee is not very due North. Why North? The question slipped through. "Well because I have trained them to fly north to south he said".
‘Oh..!, I didn’t know that,’ I said.
"So why do you do it?" I asked. An answer that must first be preceded by the history of this amazing phenomenon; the homing pigeons.
The most famous use for the homing pigeons in recent history is for the proclamation of victors at the Olympics. They had been used by the Egyptians and the Persians almost 3,000 years ago. What may be of interest to the reader is that Paul Reuter, the late founder of the Reuters Press Agency, used a fleet of 45 pigeons to deliver news between Brussels and Aachen. Records also tell us that in more recent times, in Orissa Police departments used pigeons to relay emergency messages during instances of natural disasters.
"I do it for interest and sport", Lony (as he is called by friends) said. Just imagine he said "Sixteen ounces of muscle and feather, at times on the wing for twelve hours, flying at sustained speeds of 30 to 60 miles per hour. Why? To return home where a special relationship exists between man and bird." Indeed an unimaginable bond. Pigeon racing is the art of timing pigeons released from a given location over a carefully measured distance. The winner is the animal that returned at the highest speed. Today RFID (Radio Frequency Identification Devices) are being used to record arrival times as many a bird may win or lose over seconds. Pigeon racing requires a specific breed of pigeon bred for the sport, the "Racing Homer". Competing pigeons are specially trained and conditioned for races that vary in distance for approximately to 100 to 1,000 km.
How the birds actually navigate back and home in on to their homes is still a mystery. While some claim they use a "map and compass" model, others believe they may be using the earth’s magnetic field. There are yet others who believe they follow a relative mapping model. Whatever the case, the fact remains that these homing pigeons do find their way; in fact, Mr. de Lanerolle who had imported two pairs from Germany had two pigeons disappearing - escaping when in quarantine on arrival to Sri Lanka. Mr. Lanerolle was surprised to be contacted by the seller who had telephoned him to find out whether he had them released out of Frankfurt? Just imagine, the birds had flown back to Germany!
‘I am keen to promote the sport and I can help train them,’ he said. So it sounds simple, perhaps in a few months or years, there will be racing pigeon clubs around the country. A sport that does very little harm to the environment but which requires years of dedication. Who knows there might even be international winners. Mr. de Lanerolle is very keen to assist anyone interested. There is art in what he does and it has taken years to raise to a precision discipline. It has taken decades of dedication to learn understand and gain this experience. Those among you who would like to rise to the task may find Mr. Lanerolle, a rare fountain of knowledge in this area.
Given the rise in fuel costs, and everything thereon, homing pigeons may very well be the answer to some of our telecommunication issues. A healthy new approach to telecommunication in our new Utopia!
What’s Sri Lanka’s best overseas Test win?
Last Updated Jun 18 2013 | 05:58 pm
Await Breaking News...