Best of our wild blogs: 5 May 17

Under The Singapore Sea
Debra Teng

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Stop overbreeding small pets, animal welfare groups say

Elizabeth Neo Channel NewsAsia 4 Apr 17;

SINGAPORE: Animal welfare groups are calling for measures to prevent the overbreeding of small pets, after an increase in calls for help by pet owners unable to manage mice, hamsters and rabbits from breeding out of control.

Three animal rights groups - Bunny Wonderland Singapore (BWS), House Rabbit Society Singapore (HRSS) and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) - noted in a joint letter to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) on Apr 11 that private owners that overbreeding was a major source of abandoned rabbits.

They called for authorities to tighten regulations on the sterilisation, microchipping and registration of pet rabbits. Ensuring the traceability, management and minimum standards of care for pet shop rabbits will help reduce overpopulation and abandonment rates while improving their welfare, the groups said.

Another welfare group, Voices for Animals (VFA), also urged mouse and hamster owners to be responsible and separate male and female animals to prevent them from breeding, as these rodents are too small to be sterilised.

Last month, VFA, HRSS and BWS were approached by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and Tampines Town Council to help remove and re-home some mice and rabbits from a Tampines flat.

Three fancy mice - domesticated house mice - had multiplied to over 300 over the years. The homeowner, believed to be in his 40s to 50s, also had more than 20 rabbits in the house.

The critters bred rapidly and found their way into the man's television, speakers, washing machine and other household appliances. Some escaped to his neighbours’ house, prompting other residents to lodge a complaint with HDB, which in turn called on pest control and the animal groups for help.

VFA founder Derrick Tan, who posted a video of the mice discovered, wrote on Facebook that the group was looking to re-home about 70 mice it had rescued from the residence.

Mr Tan told Channel NewsAsia such cases, involving hundreds of mice, were not common. However, VFA has noticed an increase in calls for help, he added.

BWS co-founder Jackie Fang said she herself had unintentionally overbred rabbits.

The 53-year-old had four rabbits – one of which, unbeknownst to her, was male. Within three months, the number of rabbits had multiplied to 30.

“For newbies like us, 30 babies are really, really a big disaster. From there I learnt that sterilisation is very important. Some people do not know where to get help,” she said.

Ms Fang said she hoped to be a good example for those who unintentionally breed their rabbits.

Today, her animal welfare group takes cares of about 60 to 70 rabbits which are waiting to be re-homed. These are either rabbits abandoned by the public or those rescued from breeders. She said her biggest rescue mission was two years ago, when she took over 82 rabbits from a former breeder.

Her co-founder Lynne Tan said Bunny Wonderland receives two to three calls per week asking for help with rabbit management cases.

"We can only do what we can provide, and so our capacity is very limited. So as many calls we receive we can't attend to all of them, and we have to limit (ourselves), Ms Tan said.

Baey Yam Keng, Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC, the constituency where the mice were found, said the pets were controllable if owners are responsible.

“I don’t think we need a knee-jerk reaction because it’s only one case, and I don’t believe it’s a trend or a prevalence of such incidents,” he said. “It may be cumbersome and also impractical for authorities to enforce ... how many mice one person can keep because they do breed quickly, yes, but if the owner is responsible enough, able to control, manage, find way to care for them, most of the time they shouldn’t cause a problem in the community."

Mr Tan, however, argued that it was not about how many pets one had. “Sometimes, just keeping one is also too much because the person cannot handle it. So it’s dependent on how you look after the animal and how you manage it.”


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Indonesia: Singaporean tourist bitten by Komodo dragon

Antara 5 May 17;

Kupang, E Nusa Tenggara (ANTARA News) - A Singaporean photographer and tourist, identified as 68-year-old Loh Lee Aik, was bitten by a Komodo dragon, a giant lizard, in Komodo Village, West Manggarai District, East Nusa Tenggara Province, on Wednesday.

"His left leg was bitten on Wednesday afternoon while taking pictures of a Komodo dragon eating a dead goat," Jules Abraham Abast, a spokesman of the East Nusa Tenggara police, stated here, Thursday.

The location of the incident was some 200 meters from Komodo Village.

The victim arrived in Komodo Village from Labuan Bajo on Monday (May 1) and stayed at a local inhabitants home to take pictures of Komodo dragons.

On Tuesday, he spotted a Komodo dragon feeding on a goat in a graveyard, but he missed the opportunity to take some pictures.

He was later told that usually the Komodo would come back for the dead goat on the next day.

The next morning, he went alone to the same location to take some pictures.

He saw a Komodo dragon eating the dead goat, and while taking pictures of the reptile, he failed to realize that another smaller Komodo dragon had come close by and then bit his left leg.

The local villagers rushed to help him and took him to a hospital in Labuan Bajo.

"Until now, the victim is still being treated in the Siloam Hospital and is guarded by police officers," he added.(*)

Singaporean tourist bitten by Komodo in stable condition
Markus Makur The Jakarta Post 4 May 17;

A tourist from Singapore who was bitten by a Komodo dragon in East Nusa Tenggara is in stable condition while being treated in a hospital in Labuan Bajo.

Singaporean Lon Lie Alle, 50, has been undergoing treatment at Siloam General Hospital and has shown improvement, according to the hospital’s public relations officer, Aris. He was able to communicate with the medical team after being treated, Aris said.

“He is in stable condition, conscious and able to communicate well,” he told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

"The medical team continues to monitor the patient's progress and observe him until he is in good condition," he explained.

Separately, the head of Komodo National Park, Sudiyono, said he was also monitoring the condition of the Singaporean tourist.

Alle suffered severe injuries on his left leg after a Komodo dragon in the National Park in bit him on Wednesday. When visiting the park, he approached several feeding Komodos. He intended to take pictures, ignoring locals’ warnings that he should not go too close.

The incident marked the first case of human being bitten by the giant lizard in at least five years. (dis/rin)

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Great Barrier Reef officials ask fishers to no longer target herbivorous fish

Daniel Bateman The Cairns Post 5 May 17;

REEF officials may consider adding parrot fish and other seaweed-grazing species to the “no take” list to help the Great Barrier Reef recover from coral bleaching.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is calling on fishers to no longer target herbivorous fish, which are controlling algal blooms within the marine park.

The Reef has suffered two consecutive mass coral bleaching events, which has devastated the northern and central regions of the natural wonder, leaving large patches of dead coral.

In the absence of coral, algae has been left to thrive, growing prolifically in areas such as around Lizard Island.

GBRMPA recovery director Dr Mark Read said herbivores such as parrot fish played a crucial role in controlling algal growth at coral reefs.

“They’re sort of cows of the coral reefs, keeping the macro-algae under control, and giving the coral the best chance to bound back,” he said.

“What is really important to recognise is that very few of those fish species are actually protected.

“So what we’re really asking people to do at this stage is to voluntarily cease their targeting of herbivorous fishes while the Reef needs a little bit of a helping hand.”

Dr Read said the authority would consider its protection options if it found cases of overfishing of herbivorous species.

“We would consider protecting them under our legislation, which would make them a no-take species,” he said.

“But ultimately, we don’t want to go to that position if we don’t need to. We want to appeal to people’s good nature and just to promote the fact that they can actually be good stewards of the Great Barrier Reef and its resources.”

To aid Reef recovery, the authority has implemented its zoning plan, water quality improvement plan and crown-of-thorns starfish control.

Dr Read said six-12 months of not targeting herbivores was an ideal time frame for the watergoing public to assist with recovery efforts.

“At the moment, every piece of coral that’s alive in the Great Barrier Reef is quite precious,” he said. “So if people are planning to go out on the Reef for a fishing trip, they need to not drop their anchor over the side on coral reefs.”

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