Peacock eggs shattered by Hillcrest Zoo patrons

CNJ Staff Photo: Sharna Johnson Mother peacocks herd a community brood of young Monday at the Hillcrest Zoo. Zoo officials said a select few of the birds are allowed to hatch young in an effort to control the bird’s population numbers at the park.

By Sharna Johnson: Freedom Newspapers

Teen visitors disturbed a peacock nest and destroyed eggs Friday afternoon, Hillcrest Zoo officials said.

Police were called to the park but were unable to locate the youth, zoo director Herschel Arnold said.

The incident was reported by a zoo visitor who said she had seen two teens wreck the nest, according to Arnold. He said the witness reported the teens had an adult with them.

Zookeepers found remnants of a shattered egg but couldn’t find the nest or the remainder of the eggs.

Arnold said it is uncertain how close the eggs were to hatching, but it was estimated they were likely close due to the lateness of the season.

Because the suspects couldn’t be located, Arnold said it was not realistic to pursue the matter but said it was frustrating for staff.

“There was really nothing anybody could do. There was nobody to get a hold of or blame for it,” Arnold said.

Arnold said it was the first time in his 20 years at the zoo that he has been aware of an act of violence perpetrated against the animals.

“It kind of floored us when it was reported,” he said. “Usually people come here to see the animals, not hurt them.”

A few peacocks are allowed to nest at the zoo because of their prolific reproduction habits, Arnold said. This was one of the females who had been allowed to keep a nest.

Typically a female will lay a clutch of around four to five eggs per season. Arnold said the female could lay again but it is very late in the season for her to start over.

Zookeeper Mark Yannotti said of the many peacocks inhabiting the zoo, a few are wandering with young in tow.

Peacocks hatch ready to fly. Often mothers will join together, herding their young in groups, but they always know their own, he said.

Last year zoo peacock population numbers reached a high point, controlled through a combination of breeding restriction and sale of the animals.

Peacocks make great watchdogs, sounding an alert that sounds like a baby crying, Yanotti said. In some areas, they are kept in cemeteries to run off nighttime trespassers with their call, he said.