Page last updated at 01:08 GMT, Saturday, 19 December 2009

Bangladeshi pigeon rearing on the wane

By Alastair Lawson
BBC News, Dhaka

Mohammed Zakir
Mr Zakir is a self-confessed 'pigeon fancier'

Pigeon keepers in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, say that the once-popular Bengali tradition of rearing and flying the birds is fast dying out.

They say that new multi-storey housing blocks in the city have meant that pigeons get easily disoriented and have fewer places to fly to.

The birds have also in recent years been killed by people for food.

Unlike in the West, urban pigeons are not seen as the disease-ridden source of droppings.

'Space premium'

"In fact keeping pigeons is a richly ingrained part of our tradition," says Mohammed Zakir as he gazes adoringly at them from his sitting room window in Dhaka.

Mr Zaki lives in a quiet corner of one of the world's busiest cities.

His house has a small courtyard and a pigeon cote. But he is one of the lucky ones in densely populated Dhaka, where more and more people are now living in flats in high rise buildings.

"Pigeons need space to land, but space in this city is at a premium," says Mr Zakir. "The birds literally have nowhere to land and few places to feed.

"The proliferation of high rise flats in Dhaka has meant that pigeon-keeping is a hobby that is fast dying out.

"The only reason that I can l keep them is because the birds can recognise the courtyard outside my house from the air."

Pigeons outside Mr Zakir's home
Pigeons in Dhaka have fewer places to fly to

All this is a far cry from a few years ago when the old part of the city had a thriving pigeon market. That still exists, but there are fewer and fewer people taking an interest in the birds.

Traditionally Bangladeshis have kept two kinds of pigeon. Gollas are generally reared to be eaten while the Biribaj is used by enthusiasts for flying or racing.

Mr Zakir says that there is another reason for the demise in his hobby.

"Today younger people are more interested in other pursuits," he says, "because these days there are easier forms of entertainment for them.

"I am sometimes teased by people for being a pigeon fancier, but my birds are good company and unlike other pets are not particularly high maintenance."

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