Poaching problem growing in Singapore

Higher number of cases reported to AVA only tip of the iceberg, say nature lovers
Judith Tan Straits Times 31 Jul 11;

Night-time is not safe for wild birds and animals here, it seems.

Under the cover of darkness, poachers are trapping wildlife, said nature lovers, who added that the higher number of cases reported to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) represents only the tip of the iceberg.

The AVA handled 22 cases last year, more than double the figure of 10 the year before.

Of the 22 and 10 cases, 20 and nine were linked to birds. AVA said two people were fined between $300 and $500 for trapping spotted doves in 2007 and 2009.

More offences were also committed in the parks and nature reserves. Since January this year, the National Parks Board (NParks) has issued 10 notices of offence, compared to 12 for the whole of last year.

The culprits could be fined or given a warning, said its spokesman.

But nature lovers, like public relations manager Ng Li Huang, feel that the numbers caught merely scratch the surface.

'They would turn up during dusk and at night, after the park rangers have left,' said Ms Ng, 49, who often spots them when she jogs in the Venus Drive and Lower Peirce areas.

Poachers catch the animals for food, to keep as pets or to sell them to pet shops.

Some of the animals caught are endangered, such as the pangolin, straw-headed bulbul and red junglefowl.

Sometimes, other unintended animals fall victim too. Last month, The Straits Times reported stray dogs being maimed by wild-boar traps in forested areas in the north. Animal activists had also posted pictures online of injured dogs, with some missing up to three limbs.

It is not known who is laying the traps, though groups of men have been seen entering the forested areas. It is believed they were hoping to snare the wild boar for food.

Businessman and nature lover Jim Chua, 37, who feeds stray dogs in wooded areas in the east, dismantled three wild-boar traps recently.

'One wild boar even lost a foot in these traps and now has to depend on volunteers, like myself, to get sustenance,' he said.

The authorities are fighting back.

Dr Leong Chee Chiew, commissioner of parks and recreation at NParks, said its officers are authorised to apprehend and prosecute anyone caught in the act.

'The traps and devices are also confiscated as evidence and subsequently destroyed and disposed of when the case is concluded,' he said.

Its rangers also work beyond the nine-to-five shifts to deter illicit activities.

AVA investigates and conducts checks in areas where poaching is reported and staff will revisit the places to ensure there is no poaching.

While national water agency PUB has allowed for more recreational activities such as fishing in selected areas in reservoirs since 2006, it is believed many also cast lines at illegal spots, often under the cover of darkness.

A PUB spokesman said it takes a serious view of poachers who use nets to catch fish 'as this will deplete the fish stock and affect the ecosystem'.

'Our officers carry out daily patrol and enforcement in the reservoirs, including weekends and public holidays,' she added.

PUB is also working with residents, park users and other government agencies to educate the public on not fishing illegally, she said, adding that it has built fishing jetties and designated fishing grounds for the public.

If you suspect or spot any poaching activity, call AVA on 6227-0670, PUB on 1800-284-6600 or NParks on 1800-471-7300.


Under the Wild Animals and Birds Act, it is an offence to trap, keep or kill wild animals and birds (except those in the Schedule such as crows, mynahs and pigeons) without a licence from the AVA.

The offence carries a maximum penalty of $1,000 and forfeiture of the birds or wild animals. Offenders may also be charged with animal cruelty if the animal is found injured.