Chickens in Pasir Ris culled to better manage bird flu risk: MND

Channel NewsAsia 4 Apr 17;

SINGAPORE: Free-roaming chickens in Pasir Ris were culled earlier this year to better manage the bird flu risk, Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon said in Parliament on Tuesday (Apr 4).

The culling was done in January, around the same time that the the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) put down 24 chickens which had been roaming freely around Thomson View and Sin Ming Avenue.

Following feedback from residents on the presence of significant numbers of free-roaming chickens in Sungei Api Api, the AVA did a check and found more than 100 chickens in the area, Dr Koh said.

He was responding to questions on the Pasir Ris culling from Member of Parliament (MP) for Nee Soon GRC Louis Ng. Mr Ng asked how many residents complained about the free-ranging chickens in the last year and how many were culled.

“AVA had taken actions to remove some of the free-roaming chickens there to better manage the bird flu risk,” Dr Koh said.

While the AVA had previously said that it said it was "highly unlikely" the culled birds were the red junglefowl, an endangered species in Singapore, Mr Ng, who is also the founder of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), said that they are indeed the same birds.

In response, Dr Koh noted a recent bird flu outbreak “close to home” in Kelantan, Malaysia, which resulted in authorities there culling more than 56,000 chickens. He said the AVA takes a “risk-based approach” in its culling decisions.

To Mr Ng’s question on whether AVA will consider vaccinating all free-ranging chickens against bird flu instead of culling them, Dr Koh said that the vaccination of free-roaming chickens alone may not be an effective solution to manage the bird flu risk.

“There are many bird flu strains and the virus is known to mutate. While bird flu vaccinations can provide partial protection against certain strains, the vaccinated chickens can still be infected by other strains,” he said.

He added that AVA aims to enhance its management of animal populations, including free-roaming chickens, and will involve stakeholders like academics, wildlife experts, the community, and animal welfare groups in exploring various approaches and solutions.

The culling of the chickens at Sin Ming had sparked an outcry. Authorities initially said they received 20 complaints over the chickens, largely about noise, but the director-general of the AVA later clarified that the birds were culled due to bird flu concerns.

An AVA spokesperson also stated that the chickens were humanely euthanised as relocation options are not available in land-scarce Singapore.

- CNA/ja


Vaccination of chickens alone ‘not enough to manage bird flu risk’
ALFRED CHUA Today Online 4 Apr 17;

SINGAPORE — The vaccination of free-roaming chickens is not, on its own, an effective solution in managing the risk of bird flu, said Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon in Parliament on Tuesday (April 4), in response to questions about the culling of chickens at Sungei Api Api in Pasir Ris.

Noting that there were more than 100 chickens in the area, he reiterated that the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) takes a risk-based approach to managing the bird flu risk, but did not say how many birds were culled there, or the number of complaints received.

Dr Koh, who was replying to questions from Nee Soon GRC Member of Parliament (MP) Louis Ng, told the House that there are many bird flu strains, and the virus is known to mutate.

“While bird flu vaccinations can provide partial protection against certain strains, the vaccinated chickens can still be infected by other strains, particularly since free-roaming chickens have contact with other wildlife,” he added.

Dr Koh said the culling of chickens at Sungei Api Api took place at around the same time as culling operations at Sin Ming. In January, free-roaming chickens were put down there over fears of bird flu risks.

Initial reports stated that the AVA had carried out the operations at Sin Ming after receiving 20 complaints from residents last year, most of them related to noise.

However, in a letter to TODAY’s Voices page on Feb 13 this year, Dr Yap Him Hoo, the AVA’s director-general, said: “The noise issues only serve to bring attention to the relatively high numbers of free-roaming chicken in certain areas, which in turn raise the exposure risk to bird flu in these localities.”

Stressing the need to “put things in context”, Dr Koh said Singapore is in an area of bird flu risk, with cases reported in the Malaysian state of Kelantan.

The Malaysian authorities have also culled about 57,000 chickens.

“In reducing the number of chickens, AVA takes an assessment on the ground, not necessarily on the number of complaints or feedback per se.

“But if the numbers were high enough to take pre-emptive action — regardless of any amount of feedback — we will have to take action to reduce ... I think we have to understand this is not just about the chickens, but also about public safety and human health,” said Dr Koh.


Chicken culling necessary to protect against bird flu: Koh Poh Koon
Hannah Teoh Yahoo News 4 Apr 17;

The vaccination of free-roaming chickens may not be an effective solution to manage the risk of bird flu, given that there are many strains of the virus and the fact that it has been known to mutate, said Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon on Tuesday (3 April).

Koh, who is also a Member of Parliament (MP) for Ang Mo Kio GRC, was responding to a parliamentary question from Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng about the culling of free-ranging chickens at Sungei Api Api in January.

Ng, a noted animal rights activist, asked how many residents had complained about the fowl and how many of the chickens were culled. He also queried if the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) would consider vaccinating free-ranging chickens instead of destroying them.

Speaking in Parliament, Koh said, “While bird flu vaccinations can provide some partial protection against certain strains, the vaccinated chickens can still be infected by other strains that are not covered by the vaccination, particularly since the free-roaming chickens are free to interact and make contact with other wildlife.”

“So I think we have to understand that this is not just about the chickens. It is also about public safety and human health. At the end of the day, AVA also has a responsibility towards the health and safety of Singaporeans.”

Koh added that Singapore is located in a region where the risk of bird flu is real. Last month, an outbreak of bird flu in Kelantan saw Malaysian authorities culling almost 57,000 chickens.

According to media reports, the AVA also culled 24 chickens in Sin Ming in January after the agency received 20 complaints about noise and in response to concerns over avian flu. The move sparked a public outcry that resulted in Koh telling Parliament that the culling was only done as a last resort.

Koh told the House on Tuesday that the AVA aims to enhance its management of animal populations by involving stakeholders such as academics, wildlife experts, the community and animal welfare groups in exploring various approaches and solutions.

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