Some colorful critters are peeking out from the side of Cayman roads.
Graham Heron, a local dance instructor, reported a sighting of two wandering peacocks near Lakeside condos on the Esterley Tibbetts Highway on Tuesday. Mr. Heron snapped a few pictures and contacted local authorities who told him that the birds have been known to be in the area.
“They don’t know where they came from,” said Mr. Heron of the peacock’s place in the local ecosystem. “They don’t know who the owner is, but they’ve been naturalized to the environment.”
Brian Crichlow, the assistant director of the Department of Agriculture, said that peacocks have been owned by individuals on the island for a long time but that records show no applications have been made for import permits in recent years.
Handel Whittaker, who houses around 100 peafowl off Frank Sound, identified the photographed birds as male silver pied peacocks. During mating season, from December to June, he said the birds have been known to travel long distances because they are known to be territorial and sensitive to sound.
He recalled one peacock that disappeared for a year around Christmas and returned the following Christmas. The bird had apparently been hanging out at Rum Point. The National Conservation Law of 2013 defines an “alien species” as an animal whose natural range does not include the Cayman Islands. Peacocks would qualify under that definition, and Mr. Crichlow said it would require consultation with the National Conservation Council to secure an import permit for one.
Peacocks are not generally aggressive animals, said Mr. Crichlow, and their status as stray animals falls into a gray area of the law.
“The Animals Law provides the authority for RCIPS Officers and Animal Welfare and Control officers from the DOA to impound stray dogs in public areas and for property owners to distrain livestock trespassing on their property and turn them over to the DOA to be impounded,” he said. “However, the Law is silent when it comes to straying pet animals, other than dogs, and as such there is no clear authority for property owners or the DOA to impound pet birds like peacocks where they are straying or trespassing on someone’s property.”
So what should you do if you encounter a free-grazing peacock? Mr. Crichlow said there are several things to consider before you approach one or contact the Department of Agriculture.
“Should a member of the public encounter peacocks in a public area or on their property, the initial course of action would be to try and contact the owner, if that person is known to them or perhaps their neighbors,” he said.
“If the owner is unknown or the peacocks are causing a public nuisance, then the person or property owners should contact the RCIPS so action can be taken to track down the owner and address the potential nuisance issue. Persons can also contact the Department of Agriculture, however the department’s response would be limited to either trying to identify and contacting the owner or referring the matter to the RCIPS as an public nuisance, unless there is an issue relating to the welfare of the birds, in which case the DOA would be empowered under the Law to take appropriate action with regards to any animal welfare concerns.”