Question: During spring, summer and autumn, my husband and I walk daily in the Koko Crater Botanical Garden with its amazing plants, small birds and, especially, the peafowl. In the winter we walk the Ka Iwi Trail to enjoy the whales. As the first of the humpback whales arrived in Hawaii waters last year, we said goodbye to the peacocks and hello to the whales at Makapuu. But when we returned to Koko Crater, the peacocks were gone. There was no more color, excitement or stimulating observation and interaction with that exquisite species. Word has it that "someone over at Koko Crater Equestrian Center paid someone to come in the night and kill all of the birds." Why was there no effort to relocate the birds? How were they killed? What was the reason for the slaughter? How does this relate to the Sandra Maloney case, in which she was charged with beating a peacock to death last year?
Answer: Don’t blame the folks at the equestrian center.
The city Department of Parks and Recreation has a contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services to "suppress" peafowl and other identified nuisance animals, said Parks Director Lester Chang.
Relocation was not an option, so the birds were captured, removed, then euthanized humanely under guidelines set by the American Veterinary Medical Association, said Mike Pitzler, state director of Wildlife Services for Hawaii, Guam and the Pacific islands.
"We do everything we can to (be) nonlethal," but sometimes it’s not possible, he said.
(Sandra Maloney was charged with second-degree cruelty to animals, a misdemeanor, for beating a peacock to death with a baseball bat at Makaha Valley Towers in May 2009. She is accused of hitting it four times on the head, then dragging it into the bushes. The bird managed to crawl out before dying. Maloney was scheduled for trial the week of June 28.)
About 18 peacocks were captured at Koko Crater garden and euthanized over the past year, Pitzler said.
Chang explained that officials at Honolulu Botanical Gardens, part of the Parks Department, had received "numerous complaints" from area residents and visitors regarding feral peacocks at Koko Crater Botanical Garden.
"They have commented on the aggressive behavior and annoying noise from this invasive avian species, and the unsanitary conditions they create that present a health and safety concern," Chang said.
There also was concern about damage caused by the peafowl to the many rare and valuable plant collections found at the Koko Crater garden, he said.
Because of this, a year ago the Parks Department asked Wildlife Services to add peafowl to the list of nuisance animals – free-ranging feral pigs, chickens and other nuisance or invasive avian species – already targeted for "suppression" at the various botanical gardens.
"We ask the service to remove them, and it’s up to them to decide how," Chang said. "We figure they will take the appropriate action."
The current contract with Wildlife Services, from Oct. 1, 2009, to Sept. 30, is for $58,032.
The peafowl are "very beautiful – we agree," Pitzler said. But there were "just a lot of them … causing problems in the garden" that parks officials wanted removed.
In this case the birds were first "live captured" with corral traps, then "taken offsite and euthanized humanely," he said. Especially in areas where there might be people, "we don’t come in with instruments that would draw attention or could be a risk or a safety hazard to others."
What about simply relocating them?
That doesn’t work because the peafowl then become someone else’s problem: "All of a sudden, you’re getting calls from those people saying, ‘Who the heck put this peafowl here?’" Pitzler said. The state also has made it clear that it doesn’t want the birds relocated to any of its habitat management areas, he said.
Meanwhile, although the peafowl appear to be gone from Koko Crater Botanical Garden for now, it might be just a matter of time before they show up from adjoining property or elsewhere.
"Regress will be a major problem down there because there are a lot of peafowl in Hawaii, or someone is going to move them there out of a desire to save the birds," he said.
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