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The Straits Times, 15 Jun 05

Big poultry round-up at Ubin
As ban looms on Friday, nine farms emptied to keep bird flu virus away

By Chang Ai-Lien
The Straits Times, 16 Jun 05
Ubin ostrich saved from chopping block
By Chang Ai-Lien
The Electric New Paper, 17 Jun 05
Bye-bye birdie
Channel NewsAsia, 17 Jun 05
Ban on rearing of live poultry on Pulau Ubin kicks in
By Wong Siew Ying/Li Siew Li
Today Online, 18 Jun 05
Farewell, farmer
Pulau Ubin says goodbye to its chickens and farmers

Loh Chee Kong
Press release on the AVA website, 3 Jun 05

Channel NewsAsia, 14 Jun 05
Agri-Food & Vet Authority collects Pulau Ubin poultry from farmers
By Joanne Leow and Lee Ching Yee

SINGAPORE: The ban on poultry on Pulau Ubin takes effect this Friday, and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority has started collecting birds from the farmers on the island on Tuesday.

But since the announcement of the ban some 2 weeks ago, Singaporeans have already snapped up the kampong chickens which are popular delicacies. Only 90 birds were collected by the AVA on Tuesday.

76-year-old Mr Zhou Qingzhong has been raising kampong chickens on Pulau Ubin for over 50 years now. One week ago, he sold his remaining 10 birds to close friends, and his once bustling chicken coop is empty and quiet. "There is no way around it, this is what the government wants, so I have to give up," said Mr Zhou.

Mr Zhou has decided to accept the government's compensation plan and HDB's resettlement package. He will be closing down his farm and moving back to the mainland. AVA said out of the nine licensed farmers, five have accepted this offer.

"I'm feeling quite ok, it's quite reasonable what they give to us," said Vincent Chew, Mr Zhou's son.

The Poultry Merchants' Association and the AVA have been buying up the remaining birds from the farmers at 10 dollars for a chicken or duck and 30 dollars for a goose.

Most feel these prices are fair. "We bought the old mother hens and some roosters. The ones that were best for eating have already been bought up," said Chew Kian Huat from the Poultry Merchants' Association.

Because not many birds were bought, they will not be sold to the public but instead be distributed among the members of the merchants' association.

The Straits Times, 15 Jun 05
Big poultry round-up at Ubin
As ban looms on Friday, nine farms emptied to keep bird flu virus away

By Chang Ai-Lien

OFFICIALS rounded up most of the remaining poultry on Pulau Ubin yesterday, buying what was left of the 300 chickens, ducks and geese for slaughter before the poultry ban on the island takes effect on Friday.

The move is part of Singapore's efforts to keep the deadly bird flu at bay, as backyard farming in the region has been blamed for recent outbreaks.

It is also the end of an era for poultry farmers like Mr Vincent Chew, whose family has reared chickens - several thousand during its heyday - for over 50 years. 'This is the responsible thing to do,' said the 38-year-old, who sold his last 10 chickens to friends over the weekend. They had rushed over for their final chance to savour tasty kam pung chicken after hearing about the impending ban.

Mr Chew's family, which operates one of nine licensed farms on Pulau Ubin, has accepted the Government's offer to resettle on the main island. Five families have taken up the offer so far. Full-time farmers have been offered compensation of $26,000 to give up their farming licences, as well as further payment for their homes, farm structures and improvements.

Most farmers and residents who spoke to The Straits Times yesterday shared Mr Chew's views, although some were sad to see the end of the line for their feathered friends.

'It can't be helped,' said Mr Hasan Ali, 45, looking on as the sole goose in his brother's house was taken away. The honking bird had acted as a security guard and snake-killer, he said.

The ban extends a restriction imposed last year, when the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) prohibited farms and homes on the kampung island from keeping more than 10 birds each. The animals also had to be caged. But this did not work because some people continued to let their fowl roam free.

Yesterday, most of the nine farms and 17 households rearing poultry sold their remaining birds to the AVA and the Poultry Merchants' Association, at market prices. About 90 birds were caught in nets and caged, before being taken back to the main island for slaughter.

From Friday, no one will be allowed to keep, breed, sell or buy live poultry on Pulau Ubin.

The ban has not been extended to homes on the main island, where families can still keep up to 10 pet chickens, provided they are caged.

Singapore is on high alert for the deadly virus, which is endemic in the region and has devastated poultry stocks and killed more than 50 people. The worry is that the H5N1 strain could spawn the next global flu outbreak, which could kill millions.

AVA officers will be conducting spot checks on Pulau Ubin and anyone caught flouting the rules could be fined up to $10,000 or jailed for a year. AVA's assistant director for agritech infrastructure Chin Yew Neng said: 'We thank the residents for playing their part in keeping Singapore free of bird flu.'

The remaining few birds on Pulau Ubin will have to be removed by tomorrow. The association's secretary, Mr Chew Kian Huat, said that whatever birds he collected would be cooked and distributed among members of the trade. 'There are too few to make it worth our while to sell them to the public, but we wanted to do our duty to help keep bird flu away,' he said in Mandarin.

The Straits Times, 16 Jun 05
Ubin ostrich saved from chopping block
By Chang Ai-Lien

100kg pet bird escapes poultry cull with offer of new home at bird park.

FOR a while, its fate hung in the balance, but now the heftiest member of Pulau Ubin's poultry family has been given a last-minute reprieve from the chopping block.

The ostrich, reared by the headman's son, will be adopted by Jurong BirdPark, along with two peacocks. 'The bird has grown so big, it's good if it goes to a good home where it can get proper care,' said owner Lim Choo Zi, 78, in Mandarin.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) recently banned all poultry on Ubin, including the ostrich, as part of ongoing efforts to keep the deadly bird flu out of Singapore.

On Tuesday, Mr Lim's handful of remaining chickens were rounded up and taken away for slaughter. The same day, the AVA and Poultry Merchants' Association bought most of Ubin's remaining poultry - what was left of 300 chickens, ducks and geese - before the ban takes effect tomorrow.

Mr Lim has been caring for the male ostrich for a year, since his wife was given the half-grown bird by a friend. 'I had no idea it would grow so big,' he said, pointing at the bird, which is now 2m tall and eats 7kg of chicken feed and two coconuts a day.

AVA's assistant director of corporate communications Goh Shih Yong started the life-saving action when the deadline for the ostrich's removal was pending. 'This was a family pet and it would have been a pity to put it down, so I decided to ask Jurong BirdPark for help,' he said.

Mr Lim said the ostrich, which weighs about 100kg, is tame. Even so, moving it to the main island will be quite a task. Since it tends to follow Mr Lim around, he will lure it into a specially constructed box, before it is sent across by boat.

The AVA will also work with the park to make sure the ostrich is healthy and disease-free. It will be quarantined for a month before being introduced to the other ostriches there.

Dr Wong Hon Mun, executive director of Jurong BirdPark, said the ostrich will join the park's existing group of three females and one male. 'This is part of our bird conservation programme. As far as possible we want to preserve exotic birds, and ostriches are a rare sight here.'

Including those at the zoo, there are fewer than 10 ostriches - the world's biggest bird - here.

And it is hoped the new addition will be a father soon. The park's male bird, which is at least 20 years old, has not helped expand the family for several years and eggs produced have not been fertile, said Dr Wong. 'We hope that the young male, which we're calling Ubin, will do what the older one can't seem to, and help to introduce some new bloodlines into our ostriches.'

The Electric New Paper, 17 Jun 05
Bye-bye birdie

FOR the past two years, Mr Lim Choo Zi (left), 78, has woken up to the call of an ostrich. 'It makes a deep booming noise around 6am. I'm going to miss hearing it - I've cared for it for so long,' said Mr Lim, eldest son of Mr Lim Chye Joo, Pulau Ubin's 100-year-old headman.

His pet will soon be sent to Jurong BirdPark as the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) wants to make the island poultry-free. It is part of AVA's efforts to keep bird flu out of Singapore.

Mr Lim took the bird in when its previous owner, a fellow Ubin resident who got it from an ostrich farm in Malaysia, ran out of space. The young bird was about the same height as Mr Lim but grew quickly on a diet of grass, chicken feed and coconut. Now, it towers over him.

Mr Chua Hoi Kiam, 68, a family friend, said: 'The ostrich plays with his hair - it does that for no-one else.'

When The New Paper team tried to get near the bird, it opened its mouth wide in a threatening manner and even pecked the photographer. But when Mr Lim grabbed the bird by the neck, it instantly relaxed with its eyes rolled back, looking like a puppy enjoying a tummy rub. No wonder he's willing to spend about $8 a day feeding it.

Has the bird ever fallen sick? 'No,' said Mr Lim. 'No bird in my care has ever fallen sick.'


Still, AVA is not taking any chances. Spokesman Goh Shih Yong said: 'Ostrich is considered as poultry and is susceptible to being infected by the bird flu virus. In fact, last year, ostriches on South African farms came down with bird flu.'

He said Mr Lim will be compensated for giving up the ostrich, although the price had not been decided yet. The BirdPark will also take two peacocks belonging to Mr Lim's brother, who has kept them for 10 years.

In view of the ban on live poultry that will be enforced on Ubin from Friday, the Poultry Merchants' Association bought five ducks, seven geese and 49 chickens from residents on Tuesday. These will be sold as meat.

AVA paid for 29 chickens that were not bought by the association. Its officers will visit Ubin again to round up any stray poultry.

When asked if he will visit the ostrich at the BirdPark, Mr Lim said: 'Of course - it'll be like visiting my other family members on the mainland.'

Channel NewsAsia, 17 Jun 05
Ban on rearing of live poultry on Pulau Ubin kicks in
By Wong Siew Ying/Li Siew Li

SINGAPORE : It is now against the law to rear poultry on Pulau Ubin, but some chickens were still found running free in a few backyards on Friday.

Officers from the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority rounded up six chickens and a chick during a visit to the island. They are now trying to get in touch with owner Lim Seng Kwu, to make payment for the poultry. Another resident, Choo Chee Heng, sold the last two of his feathered friends, which had run away previously.

Said Mr Choo, "If we continue to rear them, we could be fined S$10,000 or jailed for two years." So will they have to pay the price for missing the deadline?

Said Goh Shih Yong, assistant director of corporate communications at AVA, "No. They have all the while been so helpful in helping us to round up the chickens so we should not penalise them for it. AVA will come off and on again and work together with the residents to capture these stray chickens."

With the chickens gone, many licensed farmers are planning to move on. Five out of nine farmers want to be resettled while the rest have till July 4 to decide.

Nature lovers say the absence of live poultry will not ruin the flavour of Pulau Ubin. "We come here to look at the environment, enjoy nature. It's more than the poultry," said one visitor. "When you go close to nature, without the chickens or ducks, there are many other things that surround you," another said.

Some of the restaurants on the island used to serve ‘kampong’ chicken dishes. With the ban in place, they will now have to buy chickens from the Singapore mainland. Restaurant owners say this has caused some inconvenience, but thankfully, no significant increase in cost.

All poultry sheds on the island will be demolished by August 15. An ostrich and two peacocks are also expected to be transported to the bird park in 10 days.

Today Online, 18 Jun 05
Farewell, farmer
Pulau Ubin says goodbye to its chickens and farmers

Loh Chee Kong cheekong@newstoday.com.sg

THE birds have gone. Mr William Chen casts a casual eye at the fenced-up area, some 20 X 20m, where his chicken, ducks and turkeys once ran freely. "What's there to remember?" he says with a shrug. "What's past is past."

The ban on poultry farming on Pulau Ubin officially took effect yesterday. For the romantics who speak wistfully about Ubin's rustic charms, it marked the passing of an age.

But for several farmers, the process of change had started years ago. Perhaps a kampung by Singapore's shores is too much of an oddity. The 75-year-old Mr Chen is shedding no tears as he prepares to leave the island where he first settled as a 14-year-old during the Japanese occupation. Before the end of this year, he will move in with his son to start a new life here.

As someone who is 100 years old, with a lifetime of memories inside him, you might expect Mr Tan Hai Liang to rage against change. But as the government is compensating farmers on Pulau Ubin to give up their farming licences, Mr Tan is surprisingly upbeat. Or just pragmatic.

Speaking slowly, in Hokkien he said: "It's good the government is taking over." He explained: "Already, there are fewer and fewer homes here." According to the 1970 census, the population of Pulau Ubin was 2,028. Now, villagers say, less than 100 families remain. . Times have changed. Once, Mr Tan used to rear about 400 chickens, not to mention pigs and fish, on the farms he owned.

He said, "First, cannot rear pig. Now, cannot rear chickens. Earning money is difficult." And when wild boars attacked their plantations, Mr Tan remembers with bemusement that they were told they couldn't shoot them. "Cannot shoot wild boars. Cannot rear chickens, " he said with a hearty laugh.

The fact is that living off the land _ the only way of life that many Ubin residents knew _ was becoming increasingly untenable.

Take Mr Chong See Sua, 52, who plans to use the compensation to apply for a new flat. The father of a seven-year-old boy has been losing money on his farm. To make ends meet, he has been operating a bumboat for six years while juggling several other odd jobs.

In a sense, Mr Chong and other farmers have known for a while that they were living on borrowed time. They don't even own the land that their houses and farms sit on. It is state land and the residents were issued a licence to occupy it temporarily.

Said Mr Chong: "I can't sell my house because nobody wants to buy it, knowing that the government can always take back the land and not compensate you a cent. All I can do is wait to be chased out. So, I'm thankful now."

He had found himself increasingly hemmed in, while he options ran out. Mr Chong lives in a hut near Kekek Quarry which faces the Johor Straits. It is kilometres away from the main jetty, so some years back he thought of building a small jetty in front of his house. He was still toying with the idea when tall metal fences were erected along the coast to keep illegal immigrants away. "Now, I can't even come back to my house directly," said Mr Chong. "I have to cycle such a long distance from the main jetty. It's like you live in Pasir Ris and they say you can only go home from Punggol Road."

The 75-year-old Mr Chen understands the feeling. "I've never dared to make my house better," he said. "You never know when the government will take it away."

Apart from living in a limbo, the farmers faced a very basic problem. There simply wasn't enough money to be made. One resident, who wanted to be known only as Mr Soh, has been renting a piece of land for $1, 000 per month since. He used to rear about 500 chickens on it and made about $400 every month, after paying his expenses. He stopped two years back because of poor business. Since then, he gets by doing odd jobs. And now he is in an odd fix.

While full-time farmers will be offered compensation of $26,000 to give up their farming licences, as well as further payment for their homes and farm structures, Mr Soh, who is 60, gets nothing. The licence, after all, was not in his name. As he looks at the remains of the fully-covered bird cage he had built and the $4,000 incubator that is now useless, he says: "What can I live on? Three meals a day is difficult. I'm not asking for much. Just compensate me for all the money I've put in."

That is unlikely to happen _ and other farmers sympathise with him.

But they are glad that their own struggle is over and it is time to move on. Five out of the nine licensed farmer have already accepted the government's offer. "At least I can get some compensation before I die," said the 100-year-old Mr Tan.

Press release on the AVA website, 3 Jun 05

1. The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) announced today a ban on the keeping of live poultry on Pulau Ubin, to take effect in two weeks, from 17 Jun 2005.

2. Under the new Animal and Birds (Prohibition of Live Poultry on Pulau Ubin) Rules, no person shall keep, breed, sell or purchase live poultry on Pulau Ubin. In addition, live poultry may not be imported into or exported from Pulau Ubin. The Director-General of AVA can require the owners of any buildings, facilities and structures used for keeping live poultry on Pulau Ubin to demolish them.

3. All affected farmers and residents who are keeping poultry on the island will be given two weeks, from 3 Jun to 16 Jun, to remove the poultry. AVA will offer to buy any remaining poultry at market prices at the end of the two weeks.

Need for ban

4. Bird flu has become endemic in the region, with reports of repeated outbreaks and human infections that resulted in at least 53 deaths. Migratory birds were found to be carrying the bird flu virus. Most of the outbreaks were caused by the introduction of the virus into non-biosecured backyard poultry farms.

5. Last year, to alleviate the risk of incursion of bird flu into Singapore through backyard farming, AVA issued a directive prohibiting farms and households on Pulau Ubin from keeping more than 10 poultry each. The poultry must also be properly caged to prevent direct contact with wild birds. The farmers and residents were rearing poultry in their backyards without proper biosecurity measures and under free-range conditions.

6. Despite repeated checks and reminders by AVA officers, some of the farmers and residents who keep poultry have not complied with the 10 caged poultry restriction, thereby perpetuating the risk of bird flu entering Singapore. AVA is thus imposing a complete ban on poultry rearing on Pulau Ubin to eliminate the risk of a bird flu outbreak there and to safeguard public health.

Resettlement for affected farmers

7. As the livelihood of farmers who are permitted to keep poultry under their farming licence may be affected by the ban, the Government will offer to resettle them. They will be offered the standard resettlement benefits, and compensated for the removal of their poultry keeping structures. Farmers who do not wish to be resettled can remain on Pulau Ubin and carry on their farming activities other than livestock rearing. They will receive the ex-gratia payment for removal of their poultry keeping structures. Compensation for other residents who keep poultry

8. For the other residents on Pulau Ubin who keep poultry but do not have a farming licence, they will be given ex-gratia payment on a goodwill basis, for the removal of their poultry structures. Singapore is free from bird flu

9. AVA would like to reiterate that Singapore is free from bird flu and all necessary precautionary measures are in place to keep it that way.

Issued by Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority
Ministry of National Development on 3 June 2005

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