Poachers leave animal traps in Lim Chu Kang forest

Zaihan Mohamed Yusof, The New Paper 28 Jul 08;

ALL around, rotting leaves and branches lay on the damp forest floor.

Fruit pickers on weekend forays go looking for durian trees in the area.

And what The New Paper on Sunday discovered there this week can send a chill down the spine of any of them.

Hidden among the leaves in the Lim Chu Kang forest were hazardous animal traps left by poachers.

All it takes is one wrong step and trekkers may find themselves with serious injuries from these illegally setup traps.

Said Mr Ben Lee, 46, of Nature Trekkers Singapore: 'The snare is dangerous because the metal wire can cut into your shin.

'You'll be in so much pain that I don't think you'll have the strength to shout for help.'

Much care had been taken to make the trap 'blend in with the surroundings', said Mr Lee.

He had walked past the snare without even noticing it at first.

The three traps we saw were all within 50m of one another.

We came to know about the hazards from a concerned father, who gave his name only as Mr Teng.

He was worried that during the durian season, unsuspecting fruit pickers may spring the traps by accident. The traps were located off Neo Tiew Road, along Turut Track.

This road leads to the BBC's Far Eastern Relay Station and Kranji Transmitting Station, easily recognised by the huge aerial structures.

We found the traps to the right of lamp posts 41 and 42, some 30m from the one-lane road.

Said Mr Teng, 45: 'People normally look up when searching for fruits. But the danger is below (on the ground).

'This part of Lim Chu Kang is deserted on weekdays. You can scream all you want, nobody will help you if you are hurt.'

Mr Teng, a retired businessman, loves trekking.

It was his 10-year-old daughter, Rachel, who first spotted a cage-like trap. In the rusted cage, coconuts and rotting durians were left as bait.

Moving the fruits would cause the suspended cage to fall to the ground.

Luckily, Rachel did not touch the trap, which was big enough to hold four squatting adults.

Mr Teng took Rachel there on 22 May because it was her birthday wish to go hiking.

Said Mr Teng: 'I would not have been able to react if the trap had fallen onto her because she was walking 2m ahead of me. I'm angry poachers do not consider that there may be people wandering in the forest.'

Mr Teng has since marked the traps with coloured plastic bags. When he told his hiking buddies, one of them warned Mr Teng to avoid the area.

'When my friend told me he had seen a bear trap there, it gave me goose bumps,' said Mr Teng. 'This type of trap will maim you badly. Why would any one put up such a dangerous trap when there are no bears here?'

Mr Teng now uses a stick to probe the ground when he hikes in Lim Chu Kang forest. We could not speak to Mr Teng's friend as he was overseas.

From what we understand, a bear trap is a metal contraption with sharp 'teeth' that will clamp shut if stepped on.

Mr Lee said the public should always be alert when hiking in forested areas.

Said Mr Lee, 46: 'This is a serious matter and it shows that trapping is not a problem seen only on Singapore's smaller islands like Pulau Ubin.

'The existence of the traps on the mainland shows there are wild animals in our forests. The problem with poachers' traps is that they do not care who steps on them.'


Mr Lee intends to dismantle the traps. But that may also be a dangerous thing to do as he found out this week.

On Thursday, when Mr Lee went to look at the traps near Turut Track, a group of men, suspected to be poachers, had stared at his approaching taxi.

The three men, who came in a small lorry, had been loitering near one of the traps. They later walked towards the taxi, but Mr Lee told the cab driver to drive away.

Mr Lee then called the police.

As soon as the police were seen driving up the road, the men fled in their lorry, said Mr Lee.

Since the discovery of the traps, we have visited the site three times.

We noticed that in the cage trap, somebody had added ripe durians and cut-open coconuts.

Nevertheless, we did not spot any trapped animals or poachers there.

Others who frequent the area, like retiree Johnny Loh, 62 said: 'We always carry sticks to feel our way and scare off wild animals.

'Maybe we should scare the poachers too.'

Animal traps are 'wrong and cruel'

OVER the years, Mr Ben Lee of Nature Trekkers Singapore has seen 20 wild boar traps of varying sizes in other places.

Most of these traps had doors which would shut once an animal enters.

But there are times when the intended victim escapes and another animal, perhaps of an endangered species, gets caught instead.

Pangolins, leopard cats and flying lemurs, have been killed in this way, said Mr Lee.

'It's sad when you sometimes see an animal carcass dumped in a ditch by poachers,' he said.

'I have heard stories but it's hard to verify the numbers (of animals killed in traps) because people simply don't report such matters.

'As nature activists, we want to tell poachers that we're watching. We also want to tell them that what they're doing is wrong and cruel.'

There are many reasons why people trap animals.

Some eat the meat, while others make a profit selling the meat.

Said Mr Lee: 'It's hard to find wild boar meat in the market. But if it's rare and exotic, it will always be sought after.'

Poaching of wild animals is illegal in Singapore and under the law, any person who kills or keeps any wild animal or bird without a license, can be fined up to $1,000.

Poaching in nature reserves carries a more severe penalty.

You can be jailed up to six months and fined up to $50,000, or both.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said it had received reports of poaching in areas like Changi, Dempsey Road, Tampines, Ubi and Lakeview this year.

In February, another man was fined $50 for setting up a net in Choa Chu Kang.

Last year, a man was fined $500 for trapping spotted doves.

Any person who encounters poaching activity should contact AVA at 6227 0670.