Red Junglefowl spotted at Pasir Ris (Photo by WildSingapore, Ria Tan)

Free-roaming chickens in Sungei Api Api area culled

There are only scattered groups of two to three chickens in the Sungei Api Api area now in Pasir Ris after the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) culled most of the free-roaming animals in their habitat.

According to The Straits Times, residents stated that there used to be more than 100 birds in the area.

Lawyer Chia Boon Teck, who lives in a semi-detached house in Riverina View, told The Straits Times that the residents in the area were upset as the culling, which began around a month ago by the Authority was done without any discussion.

Mr Chia said that the birds are the native red junglefowl, adding that he was able to identify the species since the birds have grey legs, which is one of the distinct characteristics of this bird.

Native red junglefowl is an endangered species in Singapore.

However, the Authority stated that it was "highly unlikely" that the birds are the red junglefowl, adding that such species are usually found on Pulau Ubin and in the western catchment area near Lim Chu Kang.

In Parliament on 20 February, Minister of State Koh Poh Koon also mentioned that "free roaming birds are not wild birds", and that the difference between the two must be noted, as "the risk profile in terms of transmitting avian influenza and or bird flu different".

To this, Member of Parliament for Nee Soon, Louis Ng pointed out that he has seen the photographs of the chickens or some of them at Sin Ming Avenue. Mr Ng said, "They are indeed a Red Junglefowl. There are two birds there: the domestic chickens and the Red Junglefowl. Just to clarify because AVA had mentioned earlier that the free-ranging chickens seen on mainland Singapore are not the Red Junglefowl. That statement is inaccurate."

Mr Koh replied, "As to whether the birds that were running around are the Red Junglefowl or just the foreign species, I think AVA will have conduct genetic studies to determine or maybe get the experts to ascertain."

In January, 24 chickens which had been roaming freely around Thomson View and Blocks 452 to 454 Sin Ming Avenue, had been put down by AVA as there were 20 complaints lodged against their presence and concerns over avian flu.

Members of the public were highly concerned over the decision, which resulted in the Mr Koh to comment in Parliament on 20 February that the free-ranging chickens and other animals were culled by the Authority as a "last resort".

Regarding the incident in January, AVA spokesperson stated that the chickens were humanely euthanised as relocation options are not available in land-scarce Singapore, noting that the authority "conducts surveillance and control operations to safeguard public health and mitigate nuisance issues".

Mr Chia, who is a vice-chairman of the neighbourhood committee, told the media that it was "regrettable" AVA did not work with them to look into the complaints.

Account director Faisal Salim, 49, who has been living in the area for 10 years, deplored the decision which causes the 'kampung atmosphere" of the estate to be gone without the chickens. "You can't get the flora, fauna and fowls of this place in many estates in Singapore," he said.

Meanwhile, housewife Fiona Oliveiro, 46, told ST that her maid had seen men catching the birds with nets in late January. She said that the birds' crow in the morning but residents have learnt to live with it.

According to Retiree Ng Cher Peng, 62, some people find the birds an annoyance when they fly into their gardens and roost there.

However, he said that they do not return when chased away, saying, "If the AVA wants to cull, it should cull the mynahs and pigeons, which are more of a nuisance."

MP for Nee Soon GRC, Mr Loius Ng, who is also an animal welfare advocate, stated that the Authority needs to share details on how it plans to manage free-roaming chickens.

He said that the population of these birds will control itself as long as there is no external food source.

"The key is to not cull the chickens, but to tell residents not to feed them," he added.

To view the exchange in Parliament, click here: