Pigeon racing is gaining popularity | The Chronicle

The Chronicle

Leonard Ncube at VicFalls
The PIGEON race is emerging as a big event in Victoria Falls with over 2,000 birds from 30 countries entered for this year’s Victoria Falls World Challenge Pigeon Race (VFWCPR).

Now in its fourth year, the VFWCPR intends to grow and contribute to sports tourism in the country.

Weekly pigeon races were held with the final event set in Beitbridge.

Last weekend the race started in Lupane and this weekend it will start from Sawmills in the Umguza district. The next race will start from Bulawayo followed by Gwanda then Masunga to Beitbridge.

All races will end in Victoria Falls.

Zimbabwe has around 24 amateurs spread between Bulawayo and Harare. An amateur is a person who owns a pigeon in a race.

A pigeon might be ordinary fowl for locals who may not understand pigeon racing, and it may also be hard for an ordinary person to believe that birds were used as messengers to carry military messages during the First and World War II.

Pigeons have an innate rallying ability, which means they will always come home using magnetoreception, making it easier for them to race.

There are thousands of pigeons for racing on the VFWCPR site in the resort town.

A pigeon trainer, Geoff Armand, said they decided to bring the sport to Victoria Falls four years ago to attract tourists.

“They run for the prestige of their owners. We do it every year and we have six big races every year. A week before the final race we have people from all over the world and it is a boost for tourism as they book for various tourist activities. This year, we had reserved people but they cannot come because of the coronavirus, ”said Armand.

Last year 130 people came for the race and Armand said they expected the number to rise to 600 this year.

The owners send their three month old pigeons, the training of which begins at the age of one year.

Armand said training begins with shorter distances of around three miles, which are gradually increased until the birds are pros.

“We have a race every week. The birds are collected in cages, which are loaded into a truck and taken to the release site (the starting point for human marathons). The cage is open and they all fly away. They can fly at 100 km / h and can stay in the sky for about eight or nine hours. The good guys always come back and can fly straight without stopping, ”said Armand.

He said some do not return at all, with a non-return rate of up to five percent for larger events.

The birds are prevented from mating by the tight training schedule and the nature of the cage.

VFWCPR chief executive Kevin Fry said each bird comes with an identification ring on its paw bearing its name, country and owner’s name.

It is then fitted with a second ring with an electronic chip and both are digitized into the system.

During a race, a machine in the office detects the chip and records the speed, time of flight and position of the bird as it arrives at the arrival cage. The entire race is broadcast online.

Only specially bred pigeons are allowed.

“The owner must be registered with a pigeon association in his country and must have the right breed. This is recognized as one of the great races in the world as in Belgium, USA, South Africa, Thailand, Portugal and Romania. It takes about a month to train the pigeons to go through the finishing cage where their arrival is registered. Even if regular pigeons join along the way, they won’t go through this finish, ”said Fry.

The organizers are working with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, the Department of Veterinary Services and the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust. – @ncubeleon

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