A new report published today by Transport for London (TFL), the government body responsible for most aspects of the transport system in London, has warned of a sharp increase in the number of donkeys plaguing the underground rail network.
The document which is published annually by TFL reports that in 2010 the number of donkey-sightings was 166,752 - a rise of over 500% when compared with the figures for 2009. TFL staff are at a loss to account for the dramatic increase.
Donkey sightings on London's transport system are not uncommon. Donkeys have blighted the tube lines since they were introduced in 1922 to feed the underground system's many lions, however the lions were removed in 1935 after several passengers were mauled to death and the donkeys were not properly rounded up and destroyed. With no natural enemies they flourished and have since been living in the tunnels, platforms and ticketing offices.
The donkeys have become as much a landmark of the capital as Big Ben or Boris Johnson and have been popular among passengers and tourists alike, however the reported upsurge in their numbers has caused a number of commuters to demand that TFL address the problem with a system of culling.
Nancy Spiggot who uses the Northern Line every day to travel to work told us "They're not normally an issue. I always bring a sugar cube or carrot to feed them. My neighbour usually brings a bale of hay but this is getting silly. This morning I couldn't board my train because it was full of donkeys."
Normally placid, the animals are also reported to have had a proportional increase in erratic behaviour. One passenger reported having a fight with a donkey on an escalator at the Oxford Circus tube station. "No idea what its problem was. Normally I get on well with them but this one just seemed full of hate. His eyes were mad with anger. I'll take the bus from now on."
Nevertheless many people are against the idea of a mass cull.
The London Tourist Board has calculated that revenue brought into the capital from tourists hoping to have a picture taken with the iconic animals accounts for around £15 million pounds per year.
Michael Godiva, a spokesman for the tourist board, said "The issue here is that largely the animals are loved by Londoners. During the war when people sheltered in the underground stations to escape the blitz the donkeys would often put on impromptu Noel Coward musicals to keep up the spirits of the public. I think that most Londoners would not accept the killing of these animals considering how much they have given us over the years. It amounts to genocide."
Bob Crowe, head of General Secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), has called for tube drivers to go on strike until the problem is resolved. This proposed strike action is unlikely to go down well with Londoners who are already angry with the union after three strikes last year in protest against China's occupation of Tibet.
"It's not that we agree with the situation in Tibet", one passenger told us, "It's just that I don't think London tube drivers striking is going to make any difference to China's international policies. It's the same with the donkeys. They can go on strike for a year but the donkeys will still be there when they get back to work. Probably more, in fact, because they'll not be mowed every day down by the trains."
It's clear that with such strong feelings on both sides of the debate a solution that keeps all parties happy is unlikely to be found. New York's underground system suffered similar problems in the 1980s when gazelle numbers were left unchecked. Eventually the city was forced to re-home the creatures in Paris's Metro in exchange for taking away the Eiffel Tower for three weeks and cleaning it.
Since England already has the Blackpool Tower and it is already reasonably clean, it is improbable that a similar resolution will work for TFL.