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  Straits Times 16 Jul 07
Nature lovers patrol forests in bid to stop poachers
By T. Rajan

Today Online 10 Jul 07
Nature lovers, sign up to be the 'official eyes and ears of the forest'
Daphne Chuah daphne@mediacorp.com.sg

FANCY yourself a champion of wildlife and nature? Now, you can help stop poachers and other despoilers of our local parks and reservoirs.

Local non-profit group Nature Trekker Singapore is launching the Park Policing Programme (PPP) in collaboration with the National Parks Board (NParks).

It aims to get Singaporeans to report illegal activities they come across, such as the releasing of wildlife into the reservoirs and parks, poaching, bird-trapping, plucking of flowers and fishing in unauthorised areas including netting tiny fish in rivers and canals.

"Those who sign up will be the official eyes and ears of the forest," said Mr Ben Lee, the founder and head of Nature Trekker, adding that volunteers will also be urged to participate in organised policing trips to parks and nature reserves, so they can learn how the system works.

"The objective of PPP is to create a peaceful environment where nature can strive, survive and live in harmony. We want to reach out to as many people as possible, from working adults to students," he said. NParks, which last month urged Singaporeans not to release their pets and other caged animals into the nature reserves, will dispatch its rangers upon receiving volunteers' reports and take appropriate action.

"NParks takes a serious view of such illegal activities. The nature reserves and parks are common places meant for the public to enjoy," said Ms Sharon Chan, the assistant director of NPark's Central Nature Reserve. "Removing flora and fauna from their natural habitat will deprive others of a chance to see our biodiversity."

More than 300 people have been fined for fishing and capturing animals in Singapore's nature reserves and parks since 2000. Under the Parks and Trees Act, anyone found guilty of poaching can be fined up to $50,000 and/or jailed up to six months.

Nature Trekker is looking to recruit some 300 volunteers for its first phase. Registration closes at the end of this month, and a briefing for volunteers will be held next month. Those interested can call 6300 6000 for details.

Straits Times 16 Jul 07
Nature lovers patrol forests in bid to stop poachers
By T. Rajan

A GROUP of nature lovers have taken to patrolling Singapore's forest reserves in an effort to stop poachers from trapping animals for the wildlife trade.

Local non-profit group Nature Trekker yesterday took 25 volunteers on a walk through the forest trails around MacRitchie Reservoir. Led by volunteer nature guide Ben Lee, 45, they learnt how to identify areas that are prone to poaching and to spot traps.

During the trek, the group found poachers' nets left in a river to trap snakehead fish and handed them over to National Parks Board rangers.

Mr Lee, who is also an avid birdwatcher, showed the group's members - from taxi drivers to property developers - how to educate people who may not know they are breaking the law by poaching flora and fauna.

The effort comes under Nature Trekker's Park Policing Programme, which has attracted 150 members so far.

'Poaching in the area around Peirce and MacRitchie reservoirs has become more rampant recently and we decided we needed to do something about it,' said Mr Lee.

The prime targets for poachers are fish such as the native snakehead, sought after both for the aquarium trade and the dinner table.

Birds are in demand too, with species such as the Oriental White Eye and Oriental Magpie Robin - found in the Central Catchment Area - commanding about $150 in the market.

That poaching is a concern here surprised Australian Donald Peers, a member of yesterday's trekking group.

The 49-year-old yoga teacher, who has lived here for nearly three years, said: 'Stopping poachers is critical for the survival of wildlife.

'Anything that can help our environment and ecosystem is vital for an urban city like Singapore.'

links
To join the Park Policing Programme email naturetrekker@pacific.net.sg the following details (1) full name (2) home no. (3) email address (4) mobile no. For more details visit the naturetrekker website

Related articles on Singapore: general environmental issues and re-creation in our wild places and Singapore's biodiversity and exotic species and animal release
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