Here is one more reason we should never let go of traditional means of long distance communication via messenger pigeons:
Not only are the Chinese army able to approximate Western technology with their own 'resourcefulness' by getting a state-of-the-art stealth fighter into its arsenal and closing the tech gap berween them and the West every year. The largest army in the world is also preparing for situations when communication systems bog down and fall back on a system that has never failed any army that used it in times past: A "reserve army of homing pigeons" of around 10,000 are being trained in courier services as part of the People's Liberation Army's tactical options.
Official Chinese News Services point out that the birds will be dispersed to remote waystations across China's far-reaching, mountainous southwestern region, particularly around the Himalayan foothills. The homing pigeons, flying at speeds of up to 120 km per hour, are to be trained with message packages weighing up to 100 grams strapped to them.
Homing pigeons have for a thousand years been earning their military stripes in old China, and up until the late 1930s they were still being used.
In 1937, Lieutenant Claire Lee Chennault, a retired U.S. Airforce pilot, arrived in China as part of the Flying Tigers air defense squadron to defend the Japanese invasion of the mainland and bringing hundreds of messenger pigeons to help with the local front. The Americans left the birds behind after World War 2 and that swarm of pigeons would form the breeding pool for most of the PLA's first military pigeons.
Today, the pigeons serve alongside 10,000 dogs in PLA service, guarding military warehouses, assisting special police forces and supporting border troops.
Homing pigeons in China are also big as pets and as sport hobby among enthusiasts. Pigeon racing and pigeon breeding in general has exploded in popularity among China's upwardly mobile middle classes. Proving that pigeons are beloved the world over not because they also save lives in war time, but because they are some of the best pets to have for anyone who can keep and breed them.
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