Save Sungei Buloh otters from dog menace

Straits Times Forum 11 Dec 09;

LAST weekend, I was at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve photographing wildlife when I chanced on five smooth otters at the water's edge looking for their morning meal. These otters had been sighted at the nature reserve a few years ago, and it looks as if they have made it their home.

Photo courtesy of Steven Tor

Suddenly, a gang of 10 wild dogs appeared. Seeing the otters in the water, they barked at them aggressively and went into the water to chase them off.

The otters swam away from the dogs when their feeding ground was threatened.

Later, the gang of dogs actually came onto the footpath and stood staring down at me and a group of tourists. The tourists became worried that the dogs might become aggressive.

I called the management of the nature reserve and highlighted my concern for the safety of visitors and otters.

To my surprise, I was told the nature reserve authorities were unable to get rid of the dogs because of constraints imposed by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA). They were well aware of the wild dogs' threatening presence but could not do anything about it.

The problem, as I understood, is that AVA will not allow any shooting in the nature reserve to cull the dogs. Nor will it allow the use of tranquilliser bullets to shift the dogs. It was left to the nature reserve to set its own dog traps, and they did not work.

Why can't AVA allow the nature reserve to get rid of this problem? Shooters from the Singapore Gun Club are roped in to bring down birds at Changi Airport. Crows are culled regularly, and the authorities even provide devices to trap stray cats.

I urge the authorities to use tranquilliser shots to move the dogs to another location where they will not threaten other wildlife and visitors to the nature reserve.

I hope AVA and the nature reserve will work together to resolve this before the wild dogs hurt someone or disturb the eco-balance of the nature reserve.

Steven Tor

My Point

Nature reserve
Straits Times Forum 14 Dec 09;

'He should have taken his cue from the family of otters and quietly walked away from the dogs.'

MS IRENE LOW (This letter carries 18 other names): 'I refer to last Friday's letter by Mr Steven Tor, 'Save otters from dog menace'. According to his account, the otters had swum away and were not harmed. The wild dogs also kept their distance from him. Sungei Buloh is not a zoo where selected species of animals are displayed, but a nature reserve. The dogs at Sungei Buloh were not preying on the otters. Mr Tor's vociferous call to get rid of them reveals his lack of appreciation of a natural environment in which he, in fact, is an intruder. He should have taken his cue from the family of otters and quietly walked away from the dogs, instead of seeking action.'