FOR THE PAST FEW YEARS I HAVE WONDERED WHY DELHI’S population of peacocks has increased so much. Their screeching starts at five in the morning and the harsh cacophony shatters the peace of the early morning hours.
Flocks of peacocks visit our colony during the day and peck at the grass, foraging like scavengers for food. Chased away by dogs and unable to fly too high they flutter their cumbersome weight on to partition walls and plastic sunshades that have now become ubiquitous in most colonies. Whenever they cruise to fly up or settle down, they create a huge racket as they clumsily test the resilience of whatever they land on. Occasionally a male peacock may show off his luxuriant tail feathers, a special feast for the eyes of the beholder. But on the whole the peacocks are a nuisance. They peck away at potted plants, create a huge racket and provoke dogs and cats to start territorial battles because they defy typical avian behavior. Given the choice, hardly anyone welcomes visits from peacocks howsoever exotic it may appear to be.
Thus I was surprised when I heard the vet at Jeevashram, near the International airport telling a visitor that along with stray dogs, the population explosion of peacocks has also become a huge problem. Apparently the birds are left with no place to forage, to mate, to lay their eggs or care for their fledglings. They are forced to seek any space where a bit of greenery still exists even if it is in the heart of Delhi. Vinod Sharma, the vet, described how the police PCR vans continually bring injured peacocks for treatment at the Rajokri clinic, the birds having either consumed chemicals or pesticides, got entangled in electricity wires or been mauled by dogs.
His solution was to round up the peacocks and relocate them on the ridge. “As India’s national bird and a protected species some long-term solution needs to be found,” Vinod lamented.
His visitor was not convinced, “Just see what they have done to relocate monkeys. They live in such terrible conditions locked up in cages for months and the whole rigmarole of testing them for tuberculosis, neutering them and getting them accepted in forests in other states just goes on forever.”
The hopeful vet persisted with his point of view. According to him peacocks only needed to be rehabilitated in Delhi’s own ridge. Catching peacocks would not be half as difficult as trapping monkeys and far less dangerous. Monkeys are first treated like bhagwan before they become shaitan, whereas the peacock has no such ritualistic baggage to carry. The ridge would be an ideal place where they would not only find food but live in comparative peace and quiet.
A part of me was convinced, but then the more realistic part thought — What with sealing and de-sealing, dhalaos and dustbins, desilting drains and chasing errant cycle rickshaws, when and how is anyone going to find time for ‘Mor’? Even if ‘Dii Maange Mor’.