Beware of randy peacocks on Sentosa

Tan Dawn Wei, Straits Times 27 Sep 09;

Some peacocks on Sentosa do not take a shine to cars there. That was what one resort manager found out two years ago.

Mr Rashid Mohd Sanif, who works for Costa Sands Resort and who drives a black Hyundai Tuscani, recalled the surprise he had in 2007.

A peacock was attacking a black car in front of the hotel, he was told. Could it be mine, Mr Rashid, 37, wondered? Indeed it was. He saw his car already covered with tiny scratches - and a lone peacock wandering off.

'I have been working here for three years, and this is the first time it happened to me,' he said.

But he, like many others who work at Sentosa, has a soft spot for what he calls 'our resident wildlife'.

There are now some 70 free-roaming peacocks and peahens on Sentosa.

One theory is that the fiercely territorial males see themselves in the reflective paintwork of parked cars. Thinking they are seeing a competitor, they attack it.

This happens especially around mating time, which is typically from August to April.

The island's management, Sentosa Leisure Group, and the hotels there, have signs at open-air car parks, telling drivers to park at their own risk.

Sentosa Leisure Group has also put up mirrors in most of the car parks.

No guests have been attacked and the peafowl are not a threat to people, the island's management said.

The animals were introduced to the island about 20 years ago - with just two pairs - to add variety to its wildlife and to complement its rustic feel.

The 70-plus peafowl are usually seen near Underwater World, Rasa Sentosa, Sentosa Cove and Sentosa Golf Club. They eat grasshoppers, worms and flowers.

Ms Elizabeth Loo, communications manager at Rasa Sentosa Resort, said the hotel advises guests not to feed the animals.

'As the peacocks are part of the wildlife here, we do not want them to be dependent on people for food,' she said. But it seems that the peafowl have enemies.

In 2006, 24 of them turned up dead with puncture wounds in an enclosure where they were temporarily housed to be vaccinated against Avian flu.

The culprit, it seems, was a wily water monitor lizard which had snuck into the fenced area.

The island is also home to bats, long-tailed macaques and plantain squirrels.

The hotels say they have not received any complaints from their guests. Ms Susie Lim-Kannan, director of marketing communications at the luxury resort, Capella, said doormen would sometimes survey the cars parked in front of the hotel.

'We're very careful, but we need to make sure we don't frighten the peafowl too. We co-exist because they're part of the island,' she said.

As for Mr Rashid, he now covers his car with a canvas sheet. 'I don't want to wait for more 'love bites' on my car.'

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