'Huge quantities' of birds, cockles, pomfret released into the wild: ACRES

Channel NewsAsia 11 May 17;

SINGAPORE: Following a tip-off, the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) has found that large quantities of animals were recently released into the wild, a practice which harms the ecosystem.

Specifically, ACRES said that munia birds - as many as 200 at a time - about eight tonnes of cockles, one tonne of pomfret, as well as frogs and crabs were released.

These are "shocking observations," said ACRES in a Facebook post on Tuesday (May 9), adding that it is "extremely concerned on how such huge quantities of live animals can be obtained and how these release operations are conducted openly with a significant number of attendees."

The post on Tuesday came a day ahead of Vesak Day, when some Buddhist devotees release animals as a gesture of kindness and compassion.

However, ACRES said not only does such a practice result in the death of the released animals, it is also detrimental to the environment.

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"Apart from compromising the welfare of the surviving animals, the impact to the ecosystem can be highly detrimental, while releasing (abandoning) animals purchased as pets is illegal," it said.

The animal welfare society added that its findings have been handed to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) for further investigations.

AVA, the National Parks Board (NParks) and national water agency PUB had last week reminded the public not to release animals into the wild, and announced that checks would be carried out at 18 nature areas during the weekends before and after Vesak Day.

In its Facebook post titled When kindness hurts: The effects of releasing animals, ACRES also dispelled the following myths surrounding the release of animals into the wild.

BELIEF: Buying animals for release liberates them from being consumed as food.

The market will see these purchases as a demand for the animals, said ACRES. As such, more animals will be bred or caught from the wild for food.

BELIEF: Liberating animals will set them free.

According to ACRES, these animals are often caught from the wild and are sometimes smuggled. "During transport, many animals often die from the stress. Majority of the animals who are released often suffer from stress being introduced into a new environment and die," it said.

ACRES also encouraged members of the public to alert the authorities about animal abandonment if they come across such cases.

First time offenders caught releasing animals may be charged under the Parks and Trees Act. They could be jailed for up to six months, fined a maximum of S$50,000, or both.

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