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Feathers Fly at "public" meeting for Surrey Peacocks

Council and Bylaw on the back foot as residents decry undemocratic inhumane plan!

by Roslyn Cassells

peahen and chicks
peahen and chicks
peahen and chicks
peahen and chicks
PEOPLE WANT COEXISTENCE - CITY WANTS ERADICATION  July 19, 2018.  Despite all attempts at dissuading peacock advocates from attending the July 17 meeting, including threats of arrest and removal of any persons deemed unacceptable by Surrey Bylaw head Jas Rehal, many concerned for the welfare of the peacocks did attend. Media attending was hand-picked and approved by Rehal, while others were told they were not allowed to attend, including a well-respected reporter covering this issue - Rafferty Baker from CBC's The Current - a serious and well-respected investigative journalism program.  The "in crowd" of media invited by Rehal included Sameer Kaushal of Red FM of the South Asian Broadcasting Corporation and an OMNI cameraman/interviewer from Breakfast TV/Punjabi and Cantonese programs.
 
Feathers were flying as Surrey bylaw head Jas Rehal was called on the carpet numerous times by local residents annoyed at the lack of public consultation prior to council's vote on a peafowl eradiction plan in June.  Others disputed Rehal's contention that the birds suddenly appeared in Sullivan Heights in 2006 (listed in the city report authored by Rehal)...saying the birds had been there over 40 years.  Other misinformation in the council report written by Rehal included a population estimate approximately 3 times greater than current numbers.  The birds have been reliably documented to have been living in the community since 1976, with adult populations varying between 30-40.  At this point in time the number of adults is in the low 30s.  The peaceful peacocks have been deemed to be a public security threat by Rehal, a laughable idea for a bird who despite the fancy feathers, is more or less just a fancy chicken...hardly a species we could classify as dangerous wildlife.  In fact, the truth of the matter is that humans pose a threat to the peacocks, not vice-versa.  Despite having been publicly corrected numerous times by longtime local residents, the City and Rehal continue to circulate the misinformation about the peacocks, for their own purposes.
 
Members of the public tried to give input on the city's eradication plan, by Rehal refused to accept their input - saying it was a "done deal" and the people could ask "his" staff about the plan, but there would be no modifications or changes.  Those attending the meeting were required to have a letter of invitation from Rehal, which they had to produce at the entrance to the building.  To enter the meeting room, each person had to provide their home address and phone number. The meeting was bristling with RCMP and bylaw officers, who moved quickly to flank members of the public speaking to Rehal.   Rehal's officers went around taking pictures of all the attendees, without asking permission.  They were also documenting licence plates of vehicles of attendees.  Bylaw has been notoriously heavy handed in their treatment of the public on this issue, bullying their way onto private property, and in a recent incident involving an 80+ year old local resident bylaw refused to leave the property when asked, roughed up the man, and called out the emergency RCMP team which attended with 5 cars and a helicopter...all the better
 
The meeting was also staffed by those hired/engaged to "deal with" the "peacock problem" including a biologist and "zoological consultant" Myles Lamont, two veterinarians one a "poultry" vet Gigi Wing Chi Lin the other identified himself as a vet called Dr. McQuisten, (whose name was not searchable on the BC College of Veterinarians) as well as the public relations person for a local zoo.  It seems the city plans to trap the wild peacocks and put them in a zoo which will then profit from their capture and captivity.  The city also says it will give the birds to "fanciers" which is also a concern as the birds will then be on private property and it will be impossible to check on their welfare, whether or not they have been sold on to canned hunts or game parks or other exploitative situations.
 
In a presentation prepared by the biologist Lamont there was a photo of a male peacock in a raccoon sized live trap, with his body in the trap and his tail and back end hanging out the end.  In the photo the trap door was open, but had the trap snapped closed it would have slammed down on his tail, causing bleeding, shock and possibly death.  This size and kind of trap is not recommended for trapping peafowl and could in fact be very dangerous to them.  Lamont asked when questioned about his experience dealing with peafowl that he had once worked in a breeding operation for "similar type" birds.  He was asked about asking the city to alter the plan to use better more effective methods which would not endanger the welfare of the animals, however he said he was just there to administer the city's plan, not try to improve it.  This is very disappointing and raises the concern over the city once again hiring "tame" consultants who will provide the outcome the city wants, even if their professional opinion is different.  The biologist hired to assess Hawthorne Park for example only did a cursory walk round the park and based his lame conclusions on an online survey of research of the area, then he didn't even suggest the best management practices for the species at risk in Hawthorne Park, merely identifying the 17 endangered species as being present or likely present...  Will this biologist also sell out for financial gain?...it remains to be seen but initial impressions are not good if one values professional ethics, best practices, and transparency.
 
Regarding transparency, when various city staff at the "consultation" were questioned about whether or not the city had already begun trapping, and what had become of the birds...their response was a bit shifty...."not that Iam aware of..." and "ask so-and-so..."  (eyes shifting away uncomfortably).  It would seem there have been peafowl processed at Surrey Animal Resource Center (the Surrey pound) but details were not shared.  So it is hard to know exactly WHAT the city is getting up to now.  When questioned directly Jas Rehal told me it was "none of your business".  This despite the fact I am a Surrey resident and frequent visitor to friends at Sullivan Heights.
 
Concerns about the viability of the city's plan remain.  HSUS Senior Wildlife Policy and Response Dave Pauli, who reviewed the city report commented "Definitely a flawed plan...wrong time of year and individual trapping is doomed to short and long term failure!"  The HSUS is the largest animal welfare organization in North America. Trapping during the summer breeding season will cause suffering and death of the chicks left behind to die if a female is trapped.  The trapping of part of the colony will result in biological rebound, in which stable populations have larger broods the following season to make up for the loss of their members.  The city's plan as it stands will actually increase the local population.  There is no way the city will be able to capture all of the birds, they are wild birds and can fly up very high in the old trees...good luck with that.  Three things are necessary for a successful coexistence or management plan: community commitment, educational plan, and habitat modification (if necessary).  One should always ask "Is it NECESSARY to catch the birds to solve the conflict?"  In the case of the Sullivan Heights peafowl, there is no doubt that a good education plan combined with targeted habitat modification would resolve the majority of conflicts once properly implemented.  BC residents will recognize other successful coexistence programs such as Bear Aware, and Coexisting with Coyotes.
 
Those wishing to exclude peacocks from their property are advised to remove food and water sources, keep grass short, keep pet food and water inside, remove standing water, cover/contain compost, remove ground cover plants or cut back, protect garden beds containing attractant plants with wire fencing.  Other techniques include placing bright shiny moving things where the peafowl roost (such as bird tape or strips of foil/streamers), use predator decoys (raptors/dogs), and gentle hazing of visiting peafowl (shooing them out, bouncing tennis ball near them).  Volunteers are willing to come out to assess yards for peacock attractants and help residents peacock-proof their properties.
 
A resource website has been set up at Welcome to Surrey Peacocks and people can access information there including a coexistence plan and brochure, updated information.  The email for more info is surreypeacocks@hotmail.com
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