Pigeon suspected of being Chinese spy released by police in India after being detained for eight months

1 February 2024, 14:43 | Updated: 1 February 2024, 18:16

A pigeon suspected of being a Chinese spy has been cleared of all charges and released back into the wild.

The bird was detained by police after it was captured in May last year near a port in Mumbai, news agency Press Trust of India reported.

It was found with two rings tied to its legs featuring words that appeared to be Chinese.

Detectives suspected the pigeon was involved in espionage and took it in, before later sending it to Mumbai's Bai Sakarbai Dinshaw Petit Hospital for Animals.

However, after eight months in captivity, it emerged that the creature was an open-water racing bird from Taiwan which had escaped and flown to India.

Police then approved the bird's transfer to the Bombay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, where doctors set free the falsely accused avian on Tuesday.

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Pigeons have been used in spying and combat throughout history, including by UK forces in the First World War and Second World War to deliver messages.

A pigeon called Gustav brought the first news of D-Day back to the UK, after a correspondent wrote a report and attached it to the bird while landing on Sword Beach in Normandy on 6 June 1944.

India has also previously detained the birds over security fears. In 2020 suspicious police in Indian-controlled Kashmir captured a pigeon that belonged to a Pakistani fisherman.

An investigation found the bird was not a spy, and had simply flown across the border between the countries.

In 2016 another pigeon was detained after it was allegedly found with a note that threatened Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.