A beloved peacock at the Utica Zoo in upstate New York was killed by a lion Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. Merlin, an adult male peacock, flew over a fence and into the African lion enclosure containing three cats and was unable to fly back out. Upon realizing where he was, the bird attempted to escape but was swatted at by a lion and knocked down, said the zoo’s marketing director Mark Simon. A group of visiting home-schooled children and their parents witnessed the beginning of the attack, and zoo workers spoke to them to help process the events.
Merlin had been at the zoo since 2006, according to a Facebook post, and was a popular attraction amongst visitors. “He was regularly seen window shopping in front of the Gift Shop, relaxing in bamboo gardens, or calling out to his companions from high within the treetops,” the post said. “He was a visitor favorite; displaying his pure white plumage for all to see.”