- Jan 23, 2006
Visitors to the zoo enjoy watching the free-roaming peacocks
Beautiful birds: A male peacock makes a high-pitched noise during the mating season, which lasts for six weeks' a year
A tree in the grounds of Paignton Zoo where the peacocks used to roost
Zoo staff were 'deeply upset' when the peacocks were killed by lethal injection
Zoo staff were left heartbroken after a flock of peacocks was killed by vets - because they disturbed neighbours living nearby.
The seven birds, who had roamed Paignton Zoo freely, much to the delight of visitors, were killed by lethal injection.
The shock decision to put down the birds came following complaints from just two neighbours living near to the zoo.
They claimed that seven of the zoo's 100 peacocks which roosted under an ash tree near the perimeter fence were using the branches of the tree to hop over into their gardens. Most residents were pleased to see the magnificent birds and fed them with birdseed and bread.
But one neighbour on the street complained to Torbay Council that his garden was being damaged and covered in bird mess.
He also complained the animals were making too much noise by squawking a high pitched call which he could hear from his house.
Environment Health officials were called in and, after months of debate, the seven peacocks were killed by lethal injection.
The council says that had it received complaints from at least two people. The zoo was unable to find new homes because of the bird flu scare and was unable to move them to a different part of the attraction
Chief executive Simon Tonge said peacocks are so territorial they would have returned to the same spot under the tree.
Eventually the zoo was forced to kill the seven male birds and chop down the tree to stop more roosting there.
Mr Tonge said: "I hate this, but I am being forced into it. There is nothing I can do.
"It has upset a lot of people and especially me as I am in the business of keeping birds alive.
"I can understand people being upset when the birds are right under their windows and we tried moving the peacocks to the other side of the zoo, but they just made their way back.
"We have been forced to do the cull because unfortunately we can't even give these birds away. "There is no demand for them due to the avian flu scare as they are related to chickens."
Zoo spokesman Phil Knowling added: "It is very upsetting for us. We were left with no choice at all.
"One person made persistent complaints. Environmental Health officials were very good about it, but said something had to be done. "It is very sad that complaints from one person could lead to this. We tried and tried but the resident was insistent."
Trouble began last year after a handful of peacocks roosted under the tree and hopped over the zoo's boundary wall into Harbourne Avenue.
Many residents encouraged the birds with handfuls of seed but one complained about them messing on his lawns.
The male birds were also growing new plumage in preparation for mating season which causes them to making a high-pitched noise.
The loud calling lasts just six weeks during May and June when the peacock's magnificent tail feathers grow.
But one man complained to Torbay Council's environmental health department and demanded a cull of the worst offenders.
Mr Tonge added: "We have a row of houses on our boundary, some of the neighbours love the birds, and some don't.
"Some feed the birds and, being free-roaming, they will go whenever they think there is a handout.
"In May and June the peacocks grow their tails, become territorial and shout to high heaven.
"But it is just for six weeks of the year and the rest of the time they are silent."
Zoo officials were in talks with council officers over how to solve the problem but eventually keepers took the sad decision that a cull was the only option.
Staff were visibly upset when a vet arrived to administer a lethal injection on Monday.
The council deny the complaints were made by just one resident - and say they had complaints from at least two people.
A spokesman said: "We can confirm that we have received two complaints from two neighbours in the past year relating to this issue.
"The complaints have been about noise and damage to property at Harbourne Avenue.
"In accordance with our standard procedure we have been working with the zoo and the complainants to resolve this matter.
"However, we have been informed that the zoo has decided to take matters into their own hands and have implemented a cull."
Residents in the street say their exotic neighbours had become welcome guests.
Susan Legassick said: "The peacocks are an attraction, a part of the community, and I love them.
"It is disgusting that they have been killed. They don't do any harm to anyone, they are very friendly. They come looking through my window asking for food.
"I think it is nice listening to them call, not disturbing. Why anyone wanted them put down I will never understand."
Neighbour Derek Gresham added: "When my relations visit from America and Canada they love to see the peacocks, they are my neighbours.
"Killing them is terribly unfair."
But another added: "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."