February 4, 2024
• On January 30, a pigeon, initially suspected to be a Chinese spy, was released into the wild after eight months of detention in Mumbai. This incident sheds light on the historical use of animals, particularly pigeons, in espionage. This article explores the recent release of the suspected spy pigeon and delves into the broader history of animals utilized for intelligence purposes.
Detention and Release of Suspected Spy Pigeon:
• The pigeon in question, captured in May 2023 near a Mumbai port with Chinese-like inscriptions on its rings, raised suspicions of espionage. After thorough investigation and detention, the police cleared the bird, revealing it to be an open-water racing bird from Taiwan that had accidentally reached India after escaping. The release marked the end of a peculiar chapter involving a pigeon accused of being a spy.
Historical Significance of Pigeon Spies:
• Pigeons have a storied history as espionage agents, dating back to World War I. During this period, pigeons were equipped with small cameras and released over enemy territory to capture images. Known for their speed and unwavering ability to return home, pigeons were also instrumental in delivering messages over enemy lines. The success rate of this method remained high, with 95% of pigeons completing their missions, making them key assets in espionage until the 1950s.
Cher Ami: A Heroic Pigeon:
• One of the notable pigeons in history was Cher Ami, whose bravery saved 194 soldiers during World War I. Despite being shot and wounded, Cher Ami successfully delivered a critical message, earning posthumous awards and the French Croix de Guerre with palm. The story of Cher Ami exemplifies the invaluable contributions of pigeons in wartime intelligence.
Diversification of Animal Spies:
• Beyond pigeons, the Cold War era witnessed the involvement of various animals in espionage programs. Dolphins, trained by the US Navy since the 1960s, were utilized for detecting submarines and underwater mines. Sea lions were also employed for their exceptional eyesight to retrieve materials, as reported by Business Insider. Notably unconventional was the CIA’s Acoustic Kitty project, which attempted to use cats as listening devices.
• The release of the suspected Chinese spy pigeon in Mumbai serves as a reminder of the intriguing history of animal spies. Pigeons, with their remarkable success in espionage, share a unique place in this history, alongside other animals like dolphins and cats. The utilization of animals for intelligence purposes, although unconventional, underscores the lengths to which nations have gone in pursuit of strategic advantages.
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