Angry Birds! Zoo staff use police riot shields to protect against aggressive cranes
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Staff at Exmoor Zoo have had to resort to using riot shields to protect themselves against aggressive cranes who keep attacking them.
They have also been given officer training on how best to use the shields - donated by Devon and Cornwall Police - against the birds.
Feeding time is now a two-person affair, with one staff member carrying the riot shield, and one holding the feed.
Lynn Reynolds, the zoo's commercial manager, told the Daily Mail: 'The police helped us and trained us in how to use and hold the shields and we're coping a lot better now.
"We have been lucky that staff haven't been injured too badly.
"The cranes have really sharp beaks which they can stab you with in your legs and arms so you really have to be careful.
"In the breeding season we have to go in with two people so that one person can fend them off and the other one can feed them.
"We used to use dustbin lids but we couldn't get them high enough or low enough to protect us.
"They do come at us, they are quite big birds and can really hurt you."
The zoo has seven pairs of the birds, which can be found on most continents except for South America and Antarctica.
There is a small UK population of around 50, thanks to migrating birds.
Head keeper Derek Gibson said the South African paradise cranes were the most aggressive and territorial of the species.
He told the BBC: "Other species are well-known for coming together outside of breeding; but, when they pair off in breeding season [in the spring and early summer], they are highly territorial.
"Keepers have to go in regularly to check eggs, and there's nothing they wouldn't do to protect their eggs and youngsters.
"They are the tallest flying birds with wings up to 8ft wide, with really sharp claws and using wings joints as knuckles, and they come at you at all angles to make you leave.".
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