HAVANA, May 27 (Reuters) – From a building facing Havana’s iconic Malecon waterfront, dovecotes crane through a window, attentively watching the gray birds take flight.
Remaining mostly indoors due to the country’s worst COVID-19 outbreak since the coronavirus pandemic began in March last year, Cubans are increasingly raising pigeons as a means of escape.
“You can’t leave the house,” said Pedro Marrero, president of the Seductive Pigeon Promotion Club, a group of people who love birds and raise them as a hobby.
“We are locked inside. Everything is tight and we only have one place to escape, which is the roof. We go up to the roof, we have our animals and we have a good time there – low, ”he said.
Marrero, 53, says it relaxes him from catching and training pigeons on his rooftop in Havana, where he can disconnect from the stress of the pandemic and enjoy the graceful flight of his birds.
The new Animal Welfare Act states that there are no limits to the breeding of birds “as long as the requirements of hygiene, hygiene and welfare demanded by the species are respected “, according to the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture.
Pigeons are also sold in the market and used in Santeria ceremonies. Priests of the ritualistic Afro-Cuban religion say that pigeons are in great demand among their customers.
Despite health and safety restrictions, Cuba saw an increase in COVID-19 cases when the government opened its borders. So far in May, 29,006 people have reportedly been infected with COVID-19, with a daily average of 1,160 hospitalizations and 258 deaths, up from 229 deaths in April, according to official figures.
On the rooftops, pigeon breeders are delighted to watch animals compete in the air for prey.
“Watching your pigeon compete with other pigeons in the neighborhood, so that they can bring the prey to your home … this is the greatest experience a loft can have,” said Leonisbel Santana, 35.
Still others simply have an affinity with cooing birds.
“I feel love for them,” said Yosbany de La Rosa, also 35.
(Reporting by Rodrigo Gutierrez; Editing by Diane Craft and Karishma Singh)
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