Visitors to Tha Pae Gate, a major tourist site in Chiang Mai, Thailand have been paying for the services of 'pigeon spookers' to help them get the perfect Instagram shot.
The crumbling, 13th century Tha Pae Gate is one of the most famous landmarks in Chiang Mai, attracting thousands of tourists each year who often gather at a plaza in front of the wall to take photos. That same space is also used to host live music, events and even pigeons. Flocks and flocks of pigeons. Pigeons who like to unwind and hang out there as much as tourists do, presumably waiting for bits of discarded food to appear. It's clearly a prospect so tempting that they seem to forget that their nemesis, the "pigeon spooker" is usually lurking nearby.
You see, these pigeons are pretty famous on social media. Scroll through pictures of Tha Phae Gate on Instagram and you'll see posts of the birds about to take flight, while people gracefully dance through them, arms outstretched, in what appear to be spontaneous snaps. Only, this is Instagram, and that content is rarely candid.
The pigeons, as we said, like to relax and walk around the plaza but people posing for photos want more from the birds if they're going to appear in the frame of their shot. So they've been paying the aforementioned pigeon spookers (about 20 baht/52p) to startle them into more eye-catching poses. The spookers usually lure the birds with food and then scare them into the air (literally just to frame the person posing for the photo) either by stamping their feet or waving flags.
If you feel bad for the birds you'll be happy to know that the pigeon spookers' days might be numbered as the Telegraph reports that council officials are cracking down on the practice. But not on behalf of the birds though. No, the council actually wants to curb the number of pigeons in the area and that's not going to happen while pigeon spookers and tourists are baiting them with food. So they've introduced a fine of about 20,000 baht (£521) to penalise anyone caught selling bird-feed in the area.