More than 1,200 Belgian carrier pigeons were detained in Chinese custody following an international row over import duties.
The birds were bought at an auction in Belgium earlier this year and were being shipped to their buyers in China. Each pigeon was declared to the customs at a value of 99 euros, but Chinese officials claimed that to be far below their true value and decided to detain the birds until the dispute was solved.
Among the thousand pigeons was Bolt, named after Olympic champion Usain Bolt. The one-year-old superstar pigeon was bought for $400,000.
Luckily, Bolt and 400 of his other mates were released last week after Nikolaas Gyselbrecht, the CEO of PIPA, a leading Belgian pigeon trading company, flew to China to personally intervene. Four pigeons died during the two month ordeal, one of which was worth 2,000 euros.
Belgium’s ambassador to Beijing is currently negotiating for the freedom of the remaining pigeons so they can be delivered to their new Chinese homes.
Pigeon racing is a popular sport in China and the breeding of top racing pigeons is also a lucrative business. Owning a pigeon has become a status symbol for the rich.