Pi­geon prices fly high on China de­mand

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By BLOOMBERG

To most city dwellers, pi­geons are ver­min. Gour­mands might con­tend that they can make a nice lunch. But pay more than 100,000 eu­ros ($113,400) for a pi­geon?

It has be­come in­creas­ingly com­mon, driven largely by in­ter­est in pi­geon rac­ing among China’s newly rich, Bloomberg Mar­kets re­ports in its March is­sue. In May 2013, Chi­nese busi­ness­man Gao Fuxin set a record, pay­ing 310,000 eu­ros in an on­line auc­tion for a pi­geon named Bolt, af­ter Ja­maican sprinter Usain Bolt.

The pre­vi­ous record was 250,400 eu­ros paid by a Chi­nese ship­ping ty­coon in 2012.

Birds from Bel­gium and theNether­lands are prized for their coun­tries’ rac­ing tra­di­tions, and the com­pany has con­ducted nine auc­tions since 2009, with to­tal pro­ceeds ex­ceed­ing 1 mil­lion eu­ros.

In a typ­i­cal pi­geon race, hun­dreds of birds from dif­fer­ent breed­ers’ lofts are out­fit­ted with time-keep­ing bands, trucked to a start­ing point hun­dreds of kilo­me­ters away and re­leased si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

The win­ning bird is not the one that gets back to its home loft first but rather the one that trav­els at the fastest av­er­age speed.

In Bel­gium, a scan­dal erupted in 2013 when six pi­geons tested pos­i­tive for banned per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing drugs, in­clud­ing co­caine and painkillers.

Purses can ex­ceed 1 mil­lion eu­ros, and many races in China fea­ture an ac­tive il­le­gal bet­ting scene. More than 2.5 mil­lion eu­ros can ride on a race’s out­come.

Own­ers an­tic­i­pate that at least 10 per­cent of their en­trants will not make it back in each race. Hawks are a com­mon prob­lem. So are thieves. In China, pi­geon pi­rates wait along the birds’ ex­pected routes with bait and nets. If cap­tured, the birds are resold or ran­somed.

Ex­pen­sive birds such as Bolt are sim­ply too valu­able to race. They are put out to stud af­ter be­ing auc­tioned.

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