The city wants federal officials to capture and kill a seemingly growing number of pigeons at Oahu parks.
City targets pigeons
at 8 Oahu parks
But animal rights activists say officials
exaggerate the possible health dangers
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
The proposal has drawn the ire of Animal Rights Hawaii, which doesn't want the pigeons killed. Cathy Goeggel of the organization described the federal officials as "professional hitmen for the federal government. They will kill any kind of animal for a price."
It will be up to the City Council to decide.
Mayor Jeremy Harris has introduced a resolution authorizing a yearlong, $42,000 contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services Branch to assist in reducing the population of feral pigeons at eight Honolulu parks:
Sandy Beach Park, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, Kapiolani Park, Kuhio Beach Park, Moiliili Triangle Park, Ala Moana Beach Park, Chinatown Gateway Plaza Park and Stadium Park.
City officials did not return calls.
But according to documents, the purpose of reducing the pigeon population is to "lower the threat of disease and ectoparasite transmissions and structural damage caused by these birds and their feces."
Jim Murphy, wildlife services' district supervisor for Hawaii, said the project is similar to a program that has been conducted at the Honolulu Zoo for a number of years, but on a smaller scale.
The pigeon population at the zoo has been reduced to about 50 to 100, down from about 10,000 five to 10 years ago, Murphy said.
There are "anywhere from 50 to several hundred" in each of the parks now being eyed, he said.
About 4,000 were captured and killed. The rest "just fade away" as the food available to them is reduced when people are instructed not to feed them.
"Any wildlife, once you start feeding it, becomes a problem," he said.
The solution is a combination of eradication and education, he said, noting that a city ordinance prohibits feeding of feral birds.
The zoo eradication continues periodically under a maintenance program, he said.
The birds are trapped and captured with 16-foot throw nets and then euthanized with carbon dioxide, Murphy said.
Goeggel of Animal Rights Hawaii said her group opposes the killing of feral pigeons as unnecessary and ineffective.
Goeggel said most people have no problem with pigeons.
"I think there are certain people that have a difficulty with having animals around them," she said.
"They don't understand that they have a place in our environment."
Goeggel said rather than killing the birds, the solution lies in giving them birth control pills.
Veterinarian Sabina Wenner, of the associated Animal Care Foundation, said state and city officials exaggerate the health dangers of pigeons and other animals.
Wenner said she knows of only one form of disease that can be transmitted through pigeon feces -- a form of chlamydia.
Even that doesn't happen very often, she said.
"Pigeons are not a huge threat to our lives and our health."
Wenner said the Health Department can show no direct correlation between pigeons and transmitted diseases.
Health officials said that's an unfair statement because it is nearly impossible unless there is a study done specifically to trace a disease back to its source.
Norman Sato, a supervisor with the Vector Control Branch of the state Health Department, said an exact correlation does not need to be made, however.
"The department doesn't wait for disease to occur," Sato said. "If there is a potential for it, our job is to prevent it from happening. We're not going to wait for people to get sick before we take action."
Sato said complaints about pigeons on Oahu during the last two to three years have been higher than during his 32 years in Vector Control.
The city and private property owners have even been cited.
Besides psittacosis, the form of chlamydia mentioned by Wenner, pigeons can also be carriers of two forms of fungal disease and salmonellosis, or food poisoning.
"It's a concern for us," he said.
Councilman Duke Bainum, who represents the Waikiki district, said he supports the concept of eradicating the pigeons.
"It's well-documented, their propensity to carry diseases," Bainum said. "We know they carry diseases and we know the property damage and nuisance factor they represent."