Feathers fly as screaming peacocks die
· Zoo birds culled after complaints about noise
· Horrified locals side with animal rights activists
Wednesday June 6, 2007
But not yesterday. To the horror of many local people, the concern of animal activists and the despair of zookeepers, seven male peacocks were culled by the zoo after one neighbour complained that the spectacular birds were a noisy nuisance.
Although 100 of the birds have roamed free in the zoo's grounds and the adjoining streets for the last 80 years, seven males which had developed a particular fondness for nearby Harbourne Avenue were put down on Monday.
Residents yesterday queued up to express their concern. Derek Gresham, who lives on Harbourne Avenue, said: "What are they going to do when someone complains about the lions? You can hear them roar in the quiet of the night. Or when someone moans about the monkeys, which do jabber at feeding time? Will they have to kill them as well?"
Mr Gresham said he and his neighbours stopped what they were doing and watched when the "peacock parade" went past. " It's one of the joys of living here."
Susan Legassick, who also lives in Harbourne Avenue, said: "The zoo is supposed to be protecting the animals, not killing them. They would come into my garden and I would give them sunflower seeds and bread. They are such beautiful creatures. I'm horrified at what as happened."
Colin Bath, curator of birds at the zoo, was also deeply upset, not least because one of the birds culled, Arnie (named after Arnold Schwarzenegger), used to spend a lot of time beneath his office window. "He did make a row. But I would never have wished him harm."
Mr Bath said he was having to deal with a lot of confused female birds which could not understand where the males had gone. The birds only called out for five or six weeks at this time of year to attract hens and remained quiet for the rest of the time.
The peacock problem has rumbled on for several years but came to a head over the last few months.
One Harbourne Avenue resident complained bitterly that the birds were noisy and were leaping into his garden, causing damage and leaving mess. The culprits were moved to another part of the 80-acre wooded site. But they are territorial and swiftly moved back.
Torbay council was brought in to try to help find a peaceful solution and the resident, who has not been identified, was asked to keep a diary in which he kept a note of the peacock incursions.
The neighbour who complained was not at home yesterday but has told a local newspaper: "They make noise at first light and come into the gardens and leave their mess. If the zoo can't control them then culling them is what they have got to do."
Simon Tonge, the zoo's executive director, said that because the neighbour was saying the birds were damaging his property, the zoo felt it had to get rid of them. The bird flu scare also made it difficult to give such birds away, so on Monday a vet destroyed the seven by lethal injection. Mr Tonge said: "Nobody would say they are melodious but their call grows on you. They remind me of being in India, where they live in the wild."
An RSPCA spokesman said: "It is very sad that the seven peacocks were culled. It would have been preferable to find the birds a new home." A spokesman for the animals rights group Animal Aid said: "Animals in zoos are treated as disposable commodities. They are paraded in front of the public and killed when they become inconvenient."
The zoo and the streets around it may have become a little quieter, but Mr Bath warned that the silence could prove temporary. Peacocks are territorial and more may move in to fill the gap vacated by the seven which have been killed. "Others may have to go," he said.
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