Pigeon Caught Carrying Tiny Backpack of Ketamine Pills

By Victoria Kim 05/26/17
It's not uncommon for pigeons to be employed as drug couriers.
customs official displaying the tiny backpack of ketamine pills on the pigeon.
Photo via YouTube

Authorities in Kuwait apprehended a pigeon carrying a tiny backpack of nearly 200 pills, the BBC reported this week. 

Customs officials caught the pigeon in Abdali, near the Kuwait-Iraq border, with 178 pills containing a form of ketamine. 

The BBC says the customs officials had been aware that local drug traffickers were using pigeons to transport drugs, but this was the first time they actually caught one.

The birds’ innate homing ability allows the animal to find its way home over long distances. This, combined with the birds’ ability to carry up to 10% of their body weight—or about 30-50 grams—is the reason why pigeons have been used for thousands of years as messengers, mail carriers—and now drug smugglers.

During the late 1800s, in the early days of the Reuters news agency, Paul Reuter would use pigeons to deliver news and stock prices between Brussels and Aachen in Germany. 

Pigeons were also used during World Wars I and II to deliver messages and intel. Some especially heroic birds were even awarded for their service in the wars.

In the modern world, pigeons have apparently found a new calling—smuggling drugs. 

In 2011, Colombian police nabbed a pigeon carrying over 40 grams of cannabis and five grams of cocaine paste near La Modelo prison in Bucaramanga. Authorities say the bird failed to fly over the prison walls because the package attached to its body was too heavy.

“We found the bird about a block away from the prison trying to fly over with a package, but due to the excess weight it could not accomplish its mission,” said the head of local police, Jose Angel Mendoza, at the time. “This is a new case of criminal ingenuity.”

In 2015, another “narcopigeon” was spotted landing in a prison yard at La Reforma prison in Costa Rica. A guard noticed the small bag strapped to its body and discovered 14 grams each of cocaine and cannabis.

Authorities speculated that an inmate at the prison had been caring for the bird before it was smuggled out of the facility, then loaded up with the drugs package and sent on its way home to La Reforma.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr