China’s airport graveyard of the dead hopes to put up ‘ghost tourists’

Smokers hang out on the steps of the Executive Building on the North Lawn of the White House in Washington. (Karl Merton Ferron/AP)

Airport workers frequently get stung by pigeons. They’re a nuisance, they irritate pilots, and they pose the potential threat of bird strikes. But now, an effort by one airport in China to stave off bird strikes might not be as villainous as it sounds.

Twenty-four million pigeons are illegally slaughtered and this ritual is illegal, Xinhua reports. Some of these are post-mortem chips set in the body that can then be used as identification by authorities.

So Peking University in Beijing built an underground pig-pigeon warehouse to process corpses to speed up paperwork — as long as they still have beards.

The warehouse is operational from May to October. Transported in 1,000-kilogram boxes to the top of a 22-meter high building, the carcasses are processed by workers clad in protective masks and goggles, Xinhua reports. This isn’t a regular funeral house.

“It is well known that many people who want to come in search of their missing relatives forget the fact that there is no funeral home,” said Zhao Xianqing, director of Peking University’s Institute of Environment and Society. He added that once up in the air, the dead pigeons are moved to special vessels. “It is difficult to handle and dangerous, so they are confined to the shipping container,” Zhao said.

Prolonged exposure to pigeon droppings can lead to respiratory problems and skin irritation. And according to news agency Hindustan Times, according to the previous superintendent of its animal quarantine facility, “one of the city’s more popular tourist attractions is the dead pigeons drying out in a building, hanging from the ceiling.” That’s more than 260 dead pigeons just in Peking, India.

That’s not to say, however, that it’s this particular porter’s idea to expose a whole lot of pigeons to the elements. “So far they have not caught a main bird species like the pigeon,” Zhao was quoted by Yunnan Standard.

The experiment — which has its detractors — is part of a series of initiatives aimed at attracting visitors, from creating chicken farms and buying eco-friendly farm animals to changing the way plastic bags are used at the airport. “It is a country’s business for you to welcome people,” Zhao said.

At the time of writing, it was unclear whether the weird burial facility was going to get its pigeon shipment, or what the planning authority meant by “flies.”

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