Man convicted in Swiss ‘kamikaze pigeon’ case

A Swiss man has been found guilty of poisoning a bird of prey with a so-called ‘kamikaze pigeon’, the first time someone has been convicted of such a crime in Switzerland.

Man convicted in Swiss ‘kamikaze pigeon’ case
Peregrine falcons are protected in Switzerland. Photo: Mathias Schäf

The district court in Dielsdorf, near Zurich, convicted the man for various offences including multiple counts of animal cruelty, reported news agency ATS on Monday.

The 42-year-old Swiss pigeon fancier confessed that in August 2015 he spread a banned, illegally-imported pesticide on one of his 200 pigeons and sent it out to fly.

As he intended, the pigeon was caught and eaten by a peregrine falcon – a protected species in Switzerland – which then died an agonizing death from the poison.  

Reporting at the time of his arrest, the NZZ newspaper said the man was part of a group of pigeon fanciers in the area who participate in contests to see how long their birds can stay airborne.

The winner gets a cash prize, but those birds who fail to return – perhaps because they have fallen prey to a falcon – are disqualified from the competition.

The conviction is good news for bird protection organization Bird Life Switzerland, which has been trying to uncover the culprits in a spate of such falcon-killings in the Zurich area over the past few years.

After hearing about the issue, the organization erected webcams in various places in Zurich and filmed an incident where a falcon was killed by eating a poisoned pigeon.

Speaking to The Local when the man in the current case was arrested in April, Christa Glauser, deputy CEO of Bird Life said the poisoning of hawks had been “a problem for many years”.
“Especially with peregrines, which reproduce very slowly, it is a huge problem. In some regions the population has been reduced by 50 percent.”

In its judgement the court said the man’s actions put both animals and people at risk, said ATS.

The man’s lawyer argued that his client was only looking to protect his pigeons after they were frequently targeted by falcons and had “lost a sense of proportion” on the issue.

The sentence is not yet finalized, but is likely to be 11 months in prison and a 4,000 franc fine.

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‘Dog hater’ spiking sausages with nails

Police are hunting a dog-hater in Solothurn, who has been sticking nails into pieces of sausage and leaving them for animals to find.

The first casualty was reported earlier this week as a woman was walking her dog in Grenchen in canton Solothurn. She noticed that her dog, Faro, was eating something and then it collapsed, online new site 20 Minuten reported.

“I saw Faro nibble something, then he started strangely licking his snout,” Faro’s 60-year-old owner told online news site Blick.

Having searched through the grass, the owner found pieces of sausage stuck with nails. She immediately took the dog home and contacted the vet.

“She sat listlessly in the corner, her eyes rolling,” the owner said.

Luckily, emergency surgery, which removed two screws from the dog’s stomach, saved the dog’s life.

The police later searched the area and found four more pieces of sausage on Saturday. More sausage had been put down when they searched once more on Tuesday.

Several people have come forward since the police called for witnesses to give statements. Similar baits have allegedly been found at other sites across the city,  online news site Grenchner Tagesblatt reported.

This is not the first time in Grenchen that such traps have been found. Two years ago, other baits were set but the perpetrator was never found.

Pieces of the sausage are now being tested by forensics both for traces of poison and also for any DNA traces that the dog-hater might have left behind.

The police have a prime suspect, the Grenchner Tagesblatt reported, but sufficient evidence still needs to be gathered.