Stay on trails and don't feed birds, urges NParks

Photographers who use illegal methods to take shots may face fines of up to $50,000
Audrey Tan, Straits Times AsiaOne 30 jan 17;

It is the time of the year when photographers flock to immortalise migratory birds in Singapore to escape the winter chill of the Northern Hemisphere. But some resort to questionable practices to get good shots, with reports of photographers going off trail or baiting birds, said the National Parks Board (NParks), custodian of Singapore's nature areas.

Following its own observations, NParks put up signboards earlier this month in Venus Drive near the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, to remind people to remain on trails and not feed the birds.

Photographers go to the forested area near Upper Thomson Road to catch a glimpse of wintering visitors such as the Siberian blue robin.

When people go off trail, they damage the forest floor, and feeding wild animals may be a source of diseases and parasites, said NParks director for conservation Sharon Chan.

NParks' latest move follows two high-profile cases.

Orthopaedic surgeon Lee Soon Tai, 63, was fined $2,000 last October for littering and feeding live fish injected with air to endangered grey-headed fish eagles. He and his companions apparently did this to get a shot of the bird swooping down on its prey, which would be near the surface of the water.

In December 2014, another photographer who had tethered a tern chick's legs to a bush for a photograph was found guilty of animal cruelty and fined $500.

NParks officers have advised photography groups at popular bird- watching locations on proper photography etiquette, said Ms Chan. It also supports nature and photography communities in organising talks and participating in panel discussions on field ethics at workshops.

Earlier this month, the Nature Photographic Society (Singapore) launched a unique photo competition requiring participants to submit a short write-up on the subject in the photograph. This prompts photographers to consider other aspects of the bird's ecology, said society president Fong Chee Wai.

NParks is supporting the competition, and winning entries will be exhibited at one of its parks.

Those who go off trail in nature reserves may be fined up to $2,000. For offences relating to the unauthorised capture, disturbance and manipulation of any plant or animal, the penalties range from a maximum fine of $5,000 (if committed in public parks) to $50,000 (if committed in national parks or nature reserves).

• For more information on the NPSS photo contest, visit npss.org.sg/snpy2017/

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