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Helsinki seagulls: avian birth control is for the birds
What works for pigeons won't solve gull problem
By Katriina Pajari
When the problem is simple, the solution usually is simple too. If birds multiply excessively, they need to be given contraceptives.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Hollywood will embark on an experimental programme of birth control pills for pigeons. The OvoControl P preparation will be slipped into pigeon food. The pill prevents the bird eggs from developing, thereby reducing the population.
Might this be a solution for the seagull problem at Helsinki's Market Square?
Finnish seagull expert Risto Jovaste does not believe that the pills would be a solution.
"Gulls live to be more than 30 years old. Even if they were given birth control now, it would not help the present problem. It would only affect the population of the next generation of birds."
Contrary to the prevailing view among people who frequent the square, the gull expert does not believe that there really is a seagull problem in the Finnish capital.
"The number of seagulls in Helsinki is small, compared with Europe's real seagull cities, such as Porto in Portugal."
However, at the Helsinki Environment Centre, inspector Raimo Pakarinen feels that the gull problem at the Market Square is real enough.
"If you can't eat an ice cream at the market without being persecuted by a bird, it is a problem."
Nevertheless, Pakarinen does not believe that the American model will work in Finland. Pigeon pills won't work with seagulls.
"Pigeons live together in a single urban area, while seagulls move from one area to another. If it were possible to feed birth control pills to the gulls at the Market Square, we would soon be plagued by fertile gulls from another area", Pakarinen explains.
Juvaste has no complete remedies for the situation. "We might still try something. For instance, the individual birds that are a nuisance down at the market could be dyed red so that people would be able to avoid them."
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 7.8.2007
KATRIINA PAJARI / Helsingin Sanomat