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  The New Paper 7 Aug 07
Poacher fined $500 for trapping wild birds
Did you know that such traps are illegal? By Teh Jen Lee

IF you see bird traps like these, alert the authorities. Trapping wildlife such as birds and snakes is illegal in Singapore, even if it is done outside a nature reserve.

It was public feedback about such traps along Andover Road in Changi that led to investigations in June by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).

AVA officers found several caged birds in a maintenance shed at a club on Andover Road. Some of the cages had a side cage with a spring trap attached. The caged birds were used to attract and trap other wild birds. Checks with the maintenance staff revealed that the birds belonged to assistant technician Mohamed Dali, 46.

While most of the birds found there were bought in pet shops or given by friends, Mr Mohamed admitted that five of the spotted doves in the shed were trapped by him. The spotted doves were confiscated and the traps destroyed. Mr Mohamed was slapped with a $500 fine for trapping the doves. Such doves are sold in pet shops here for $20 or more, depending on their singing ability.

Mr Gerald Neo, a senior wildlife enforcement officer, said: 'The AVA would like to remind the public that it is an offence under the Wild Animals and Birds Act to keep or trap any animals in the wild such as birds and snakes.

'Anyone found violating the Act shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $1,000 per animal.'

The Andover Road case is the first poaching fine imposed by AVA in recent years. 'In the past, there were complaints, but we couldn't catch the culprits,' said Mr Neo.

Poaching is considered one of the biggest threats to bird populations here.

Local bird experts have recorded the extinction of 44 species. Although spotted doves are still quite common in Singapore, they are often trapped for sale because they are popular in bird-singing contests.

Commenting on the Andover Road case, DrHo Hua Chew, chairman of the Nature Society's conservation committee, said: 'Hopefully word will spread that it is wrong to trap birds. Many who trap spotted and zebra doves are not aware of wildlife laws protecting the birds.

'Wildlife is not just protected in nature reserves. There ought to be some public awareness about these laws.'

Volunteer nature guide Ben Lee, who founded local non-profit group Nature Trekker, was also glad to hear of the poacher getting fined.

He said: 'Poachers are elusive so law enforcement should not slacken. 'I support stiff penalties - it is good for nature in Singapore.'

Nature Trekker launched its Park Policing Programme in early June. Volunteers partner the National Parks Board to stop illegal activities such as bird-trapping and poaching in nature reserves.

Under the Parks and Trees Act, anyone found guilty of poaching in a nature reserve can be fined up to $50,000 and jailed a maximum of six months.

Mr Lee gave some tips on how the public can help look out for bird trappers: 'If there are increased bird calls, look out for caged birds being used to attract wild ones.

'If there are open clearings in nature areas, look for branches where traps can be hung from. Be alert in the mornings and evenings because that's when birds are more active and when poachers are likely to strike.'

The public can contact AVA at 6227 0670 to report any illegal activities that they see.

Nature lovers, sign up to be the 'official eyes and ears of the forest'
Daphne Chuah Today Online 10 Jul 07

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