renowned Birdman of Alcatraz, Robert Stroud pioneered the remedial
qualities of keeping birds and other pets in prisons.
He became an expert on the diseases of canaries and his textbook on
the subject is still referred to today.
I was reminded of this a short while ago when hearing about the Alexcon
Diamond Mine, in East Africa.
There, homing pigeons are regularly used to smuggle valuable diamonds
out of the mines. Miners are, of course, routinely searched on their
way out at the end of their shift in case they've secreted a diamond
Until recently, they were only given a cursory examination on the
A homing pigeon would be smuggled in and, at a quiet time, a diamond
slipped into a small pouch on its leg. Off it would go straight over
the fence back to its owner's loft.
At one time, management had even encouraged the men to keep pigeons
and form clubs " as a hobby ". Unknown to them, the birds
had been smuggling diamonds out for years.
It casts a somewhat different light on the pigeons kept in some of
Her Majesty's institutions up and down Britain.
We have now learned that about 70 people have been arrested using
this method and four pigeons have been intercepted.
In one case, the bird was carrying in little pockets under the wings
six carats of uncut diamonds.