The SPCA has raised suggestions of animal cruelty after two dead chickens and several more emaciated birds were discovered in a Government aviary in the Botanical Gardens.
Inspector Glyn Roberts said the birds had apparently been locked up without food and clean water for a week before being spotted by a member of the public visiting the beauty spot.
The surviving birds were the weight of a chocolate bar, according to the SPCA, which believes the mistreatment could be linked to the recently announced feral chicken control programme.
Mr Roberts is calling for Public Works Minister Michael Weeks to address concerns on the subject, and wants a meeting with Director of Parks Lisa-Dawn Johnston.
“Those chickens have been there a couple of months and were trapped,” Mr Roberts told The Royal Gazette.
“It seems that no one person was put in charge of looking after them so they were more or less abandoned. It’s simply not acceptable.”
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the woman who found the birds while walking her dog on Saturday morning said: “One had died and was decomposed.
“The chickens that were alive were starving and weighed as much as a chocolate bar.
“The only water they had was rain and there were no signs of any food whatsoever.
“I just don’t know at what point somebody forgot they were there. I’m an adult and this has affected me.
“What about a child? Children go to look at the animals and may have seen what I saw.”
Mr Roberts said the SPCA received a number of calls about the “gruesome scene” from residents and visitors walking through the attraction.
“On arrival SPCA officers saw the carcases of two chickens in the run with two other birds so weak they were just standing in the aviary with their wings hanging down,” said Mr Roberts in a statement.
“One of the carcases and the two emaciated birds were immediately transported to Endsmeet Veterinary surgery for a veterinary examination. The birds were extremely emaciated and weighed only a few hundred grams.
“The SPCA then returned to provide the remaining four birds with fresh food and clean water whilst enquiries were made into who should have been caring for them. Enquiries have revealed that they may have been left for as long as a week without any food.”
He said this was not the first call the SPCA has received about animals at the Botanical Gardens.
“Only recently we have had a number of calls regarding the animals used during the summer camp. When officers attended they found calves and goats without water and shade,” he said.
“Prior to this, the SPCA has had complaints about the treatment of chickens in traps which were in full sun and again with no water; and prior to this in June we had problems with ducks being kept next to the Jack King Building in a dirty pen with no food or clean water.”
Last month, Mr Weeks announced Government’s plan to eradicate feral chickens, targeting the Island’s 30,000 population with “efficient and humane” techniques.
Mr Roberts said his enquiries have revealed the chickens at the Botanical Gardens had been trapped “for the purposes of teaching the staff how to dispatch feral chickens”.
He continued: “They may have been overlooked when they were moved to the rear aviaries out of sight of main entrance to Masterworks.
“The SPCA is also seeking assurances from Mr Weeks the Minister for Public Works and the Director of Conservation Services that their recently announced feral chicken control programme is conducted in a humane manner.
“While the SPCA is aware of the need to control feral chickens this does not make it open season on cruelty. Birds once trapped must not be left without food and water for long periods and must be promptly and humanely dispatched.
“Traps should be checked daily and never placed in locations without protection from the rain and sun.”
The Ministry of Public Works did not respond to a request for a comment over the public holiday weekend.
By Tim Smith The Royal Gazette