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  Straits Times 26 May 07
Poachers swoop in on feathered wildlife in Singapore
Bird trapping in Seletar Airbase and other areas reported, but no hunter caught
By Lin Xinyi & T. Rajan

THE lightly forested Seletar Airbase area may not seem like a hunting ground for bird poachers, but more than 80 species of birds can be found there.

Indeed, poachers have already swooped in, upsetting nature ramblers because some of the species are endangered. They claim to have seen poachers trapping birds near the airbase. They hope the authorities can do something, while stepping up public education.

For example, people are unaware that it is illegal to remove wildlife, even from places which are not nature reserves.

Workers have noticed the poachers near the airbase. They pointed out the places where traps were set up.

But the poachers seemed to have taken pains to cover their tracks. A check by a Straits Times team at Venus Drive, Khatib Bongsu and Seletar Airbase did not surface any traps.

Mr Jumari Yacob, 40, who loads goods for Batam Logistics, said: 'They come with their cages about four times a month, usually on Sundays.'

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has received reports of poaching and followed up with investigations. However, it has not caught any poachers. An AVA spokesman said: 'Sometimes, we may find nets and traps, but no one around.'

Chairman (conservation committee) of the Nature Society, Dr Ho Hua Chew, said he has been receiving more reports of poaching, though the increase could be due to more bird watchers.

He said he was now receiving reports of poaching at places such as Dempsey Road, Sarimbun and Seletar.

'While there are National Parks Board (NParks) rangers at nature reserves, the countryside is not attended to,' he added.

It is illegal to hunt or injure any animal in a nature reserve here. Poaching is punishable with a fine of up to $50,000 or imprisonment, or both. Still, despite rangers combing parks and reserves, poachers can be elusive.

Poaching is one of the biggest threats to local birdlife here.

Already, 44 species have become extinct, according to a recently published checklist - the first in 50 years - of Singapore's birds by ornithologists Wang Luan Keng and Christopher Hails.

Volunteer nature guide and trek leader Ben Lee said: 'Poachers know when to strike and when to lie low.'

Dr Ho said birds like the White-breasted Waterham and herons are poached by foreign workers for food. Songbirds like the Straw-headed Bulbul, an endangered species here, are kept as pets or used in singing contests. Some birds, such as the baya weaver, build attractive nests.

Dr Ho said: 'These shapely nests are harvested for their decorative purposes and are sold to gardeners.'

He believes educating the public on green issues is one way to preserve wildlife habitat. 'Many people are not aware that it is illegal to take away wildlife. Even if you catch a bird in your backyard, you cannot keep it,' he said.

Any person who kills, takes or keeps any wild animal or bird without a licence from the AVA will, on conviction, be slapped with a fine not exceeding $1,000.

Freshwater fish, flying lemurs and water monitor lizards have also been netted.

Nature lovers acknowledge the difficulties faced by the AVA and NParks.

Said teacher Tang Hung Bun, 51: 'There's not enough manpower to station rangers in all areas.' A volunteer at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve for the past two years, he does his best. The more brazen poachers ignore him or tell him to mind his own business.

Bird watcher Con Foley, 60, said: 'Do you think poachers are going to hang around till the authorities come?'

The public can call the AVA on 6227-0670 if they see poachers.


They sell, keep or eat the poached animals

FROM the seas and skies to swamps and forests, several areas in Singapore are fair game for poachers, who sell, keep or even eat the wild animals they capture.

Sometimes, they simply do not know they are breaking the law.

Poaching is relatively rare but nature lovers say they have often caught offenders in the act. The more popular poaching grounds include:

# CHANGI AND PULAU UBIN: Home to an amazing diversity of marine animals like horseshoe crabs, carpet and peacock anemones, coral, starfish and seahorses. People have been spotted netting seahorses and carrying away large bags of carpet anemones and coral, which are popular in the marine aquarium trade.

# NEE SOON SWAMP: Home to the blue-eared kingfisher and the highly threatened banded leaf monkey, which are found only in Singapore. There are fewer than 20 of these monkeys left in the wild. The peat swamp forest is home to most of the native and threatened freshwater fish and crustacean species on the island, making this a profitable hunting ground for poachers supplying the recreational aquarium trade.

# BUKIT TIMAH NATURE RESERVE: Home to pangolins or scaly anteaters, the squirrel-like tree shrews, colugos or flying lemurs (below), and the greater racket-tailed drongo with its unmistakable plumage. Glue-laden traps, slingshots and nets are among the favoured arsenal.

Shutterbugs looking among the undergrowth for photo shots in secluded areas have even found trip- wire traps which are laid to snare the handful of wildlife found in the reserve.

Just last year, a baby lemur and its mother died after two men wielding slingshots in MacRitchie Nature Reserve injured the animals while attempting to poach them.

The National Parks Board subsequently stepped up its patrols in the area, which is connected to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

Poaching on Changi heartbreaking behaviour on a beautiful shore on the manta blog

Slingshot attack: Baby flying lemur put to sleep
by Radha Basu The Straits Times 30 Mar 06

Flying lemur and baby shot down at MacRitchie
by Radha Basu The Straits Times 22 Mar 05

Shame on you, animal bullies Time to mete out harsher penalties to those who abuse small, defenceless animals?
Neil Humphreys Today Online 25 Mar 06

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