Every year, thousands of multicolored balloons are released over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to kick off the Indy 500. While this fan favorite might be considered the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” it is a deadly tradition that needs to end. 

Balloon debris entangles birds, fish, and several other animals, strangling them or damaging their limbs. In addition, animals commonly mistake balloons for food and ingest them, which harms or even kills them. These massive balloon releases result in thousands of pieces of trash eventually falling to the ground and into waterways. At best, the debris becomes unsightly pollution. Frequently, however, this tradition poses a dangerous threat to wildlife and domestic animals. The garbage can easily make its way through air currents and rivers to the ocean, where it contributes to massive trash islands and the death of sea turtles, whales, and other marine life.

While the US Fish and Wildlife Service is opposed to balloon releases and has warned people of the damage they cause, it is up to us to end the outdated and dangerous spectacle.  As result, Indiana Audubon has issued the following official statement regarding this and all intentional balloon releases

Indiana Audubon Society holds the position that intentional helium balloon releases should NOT be held due to their injurious effects upon wildlife, especially birds. We are committed to promoting and protecting bird-friendly communities by helping to end balloon releases in Indiana.

Scientific research conducted by and reported by NOAA Marine Debris Program, Scientific Reports, Phys.org, and the Ocean Conservancy, points to the littering of latex, Mylar, and composite material balloons as being mistaken for food by wildlife and causing loss of nutrition, intestinal injury and obstruction, and death. Balloon strings and ribbons have caused entanglement, injury, infection, and death in birds and other wildlife.

A current petition is circulating to help stand up against the Indy 500 balloon release. To sign the petition, visit bit.do/indyballoonrelease.

Current organizations that have pledged support with Indiana Audubon in opposition to the Indy 500 Balloon Release:

  • American Birding Association
  • American Bird Conservancy
  • Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology
  • David Sibley – Author and Illustrator
  • Julie Fickenoose – Natural History Author/ Artist
  • Sea Turtle Conservancy
  • South FL Audubon
  • Houston Audubon
  • International Crane Foundation
  • Atlanta Audubon Society
  • Maine Audubon
  • Hawaii Audubon Society
  • Indiana Audubon Society 
  • Amos Butler Audubon Society
  • Stockbridge Audubon
  • Sassafras Audubon
  • Tippecanoe Audubon
  • Evansville Audubon Society
  • Wabash Valley Audubon
  • South Bend-Elkhart Audubon
  • Robert Cooper Audubon
  • Council of Ohio Audubon Societies
  • Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary
  • Falling Springs Bird Sanctuary
  • Central Kentucky Audubon Society
  • Beckham Bird Club (logo)
  • The Feminist Bird Club
  • New York City Audubon
  • Big Bluestem Audubon
  • Cedar Rapids Audubon
  • Missouri Bird Club
  • Cornejo Audubon Society
  • Ventura Audubon Society
  • Turtle Island Restoration Network
  • Wisconsin Ornithological Society
  • Illinois Ornithological Society
  • Madison Audubon
  • Fond du Lac County Audubon Society
  • Connecticut Audubon Society

For more information or to get involved, contact Stewardship Committee Chair, Phil English.

2021 Copyright ©  Indiana Audubon Society, Inc.

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