The free-ranging chickens and other animals will only be culled by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) as a ‘last resort’, the Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon said in Parliament on Monday (20 Feb).
Member of Parliament Louis Ng Kok Kwang (Nee Soon GRC) and Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Daniel Goh Pei Siong on Monday, had asked the Minister for National Development on the matter of animals culling.
Just in February, “Chickens” which had been roaming freely around Thomson View and Blocks 452 to 454 Sin Ming Avenue, were put down by AVA, causing a public furor over the matter.
The combined questions by the two members were:
- how many residents have complained about the free-ranging chickens at Sin Ming;
- what percentage of residents living around Thomson View and Blocks 452 to 454 Sin Ming Avenue have complained about the chickens;
- whether AVA has considered asking people to adopt the chickens or other more humane alternatives;
- whether AVA will set a threshold in terms of the number of complains and complainants before culling other chickens or animals.
- at which point does AVA decide to cull populations of wildlife in an area due to public complaints;
- whether the AVA consults and communicates with residents living with the wildlife in their midst, wildlife experts and other stakeholders in making the decision;
- how does AVA ensure that the culling does not affect similar but endangered or indigenous species of wildlife.
In response to their questions, the Minister, who is also MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, said AVA found that the free-roaming chicken population near Sin Ming Avenue had more than doubled in the last two years from about 20 to more than 50 birds.
Culling of chickens not motivated solely by noise concerns
Mentioning studies have shown that chickens are more susceptible to the bird flu virus, as compared to other birds like pigeons, and transmit the disease to humans, Dr Koh reiterated that AVA’s culling of the birds was not motivated solely by noise concerns.
But he also said, “That said, AVA acknowledges that engagement and communications with residents and other stakeholders on this issue ought to have been better managed.”
AVA recently culled 24 free-roaming chickens in the Sin Ming Avenue after getting complaints from residents last year, largely about noise.
Ms Jessica Kwok, AVA group director of the animal management group, was quoted by Straits Times on 2 Feb that the authority has received requests to manage the free- ranging chicken population due to noise pollution.
But after the public debate on the issue, AVA director-general Yap Him Hoo clarified that the culling was due to concerns over bird flu risk and not because the complaints about noise.
In his speech, Dr Koh urged the community to avoid feeding wildlife. “Such a practice further disturbs the balance in the ecosystem and will invariably increase human-wildlife contact, and then subsequently, to conflict,” he said.
“It will also potentially increase the risk of human-animal cross-transmission of diseases,” he added.
AVA has to test if Sin Ming chickens are endangered Red Junglefowl
Addressing the suggestion that the chickens could be re-located to the wild like Pulau Ubin or other forested areas, Dr Koh said the chickens in the Sin Ming area and in most of the urban settings are highly unlikely to be of native stock and are therefore different from the indigenous breed of the Red Jungle Fowl.
He said that the Red Jungle Fowl is an endangered species known to occur only in Pulau Ubin and in the Western Catchment area, while these chickens were mostly brought in by humans at some point, perhaps to be raised as pets. So releasing the free-ranging chickens into the wild can adversely affect the stock of the native species genetically, especially if there is inter-breeding that takes place thereafter.
However, Mr Ng said he had seen photos of the chickens at the Sin Ming area and said at least some of them were red jungle fowl.
Read: “Wild City” features Sin Ming Ave chickens as endangered Red Junglefowl”
Dr Koh acknowledged that AVA would need to conduct genetic studies to ascertain whether the chickens found in the area were red jungle fowl or other breeds.
He informed that AVA is presently continuing to undertake research with academics, wildlife experts, and other public agencies to find the best ways to manage the population of free-ranging chickens and other birds.
He gave an example of a 2016 study initiated by AVA with the National University of Singapore (NUS) to better understand the ecology and population of selected bird species in Singapore. One of the bird species that this study is focusing on is the free-ranging chickens.
Through these research studies and public engagement efforts, AVA aims to strengthen its capabilities and develop more effective science-based methods to manage the animal population in our midst, Dr Koh said.
AVA will also involve different stakeholders, including the community and animal welfare groups, in exploring various approaches and solutions. Culling will only be done as a very last resort, he stated.
Readers, be the judge on whether Dr Koh has answered the questions of the MP and NCMP.