Drug smugglers have moved on from Pablo Escobar’s tactics of trucks, trains and airplanes: today, one of the most creative techniques for getting narcotics across borders and into prisons is to use carrier pigeons
A new film, Pleasure Island, dramatises the story of a pigeon fancier (or a pigeon racer) using pigeons to smuggle drugs across the North Sea. Here’s everything you’ve ever wanted to know about coke smuggling pigeons (but were afraid to ask.)
Pigeons can carry 10 per cent of their body weight
Pigeons weigh between 300 and 500 grams, and can carry up to 10 per cent of their body weight, or about 30 to 50 grams.
One pigeon can carry £2,500 worth of drugs
Since cocaine has a rough street value of about £50 per gram, that means one pigeon can potentially carry up to £2,500 of drugs.
Russian drug smugglers were the first to use pigeons in prisons
The Indo-Asian News Service discovered that Police in Russia discovered a drug smuggling operation near a prison camp in Astrakhan in July 2006, where smugglers would place pigeons inside a plastic bottle with a consignment of drugs to be thrown over the prison fence at an agreed time. The prisoners would then pick up the drugs, attach payment and further instructions and release the bird to fly home.
Pigeon pouches are the most common method of pigeon smuggling
Generally when pigeons are used as drug mules the contraband is strapped to them rather than inside them, which is less risky for the pigeon and means they can carry more weight.
The first pigeon as drug mule was discovered in Colombia (naturally)
In 2011 Colombian police discovered a pigeon with a bag strapped to its back containing 40 grams of marijuana and 6 grams of cocaine paste. According to The Telegraph, the package was too heavy for the bird and the pigeon was unable to fly over the prison’s walls.
Prisoners in Brazil created a pigeon pen in prison
Inmates at a Brazilian prison in Marilia, Sao Paulo state created a pigeon pen in the roof of the jail in order to smuggle mobile phones and drugs into the prison. Prisoners would smuggle the birds out through friends and family, who would attach drugs to the backs of the birds in a small pouch.
Dead pigeons have been used as drug containers
A BBC TV show Behind Bars about Cardiff Prison, airing in 2006, revealed that drug smugglers would stuff drugs inside dead pigeons and throw them into the exercise yard. Other containers included tangerines and tennis balls. Prison officers solved the problem by moving the exercise yard away from the walls of the prison.
Pleasure Island is available now on iTunes, Amazon, Sony, Google Play, Blinkbox, xBox and Wuaki