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The Straits Times 21 Sep 04

AVA buys Ubin birds to cut risk of backyard flu
75 excess ducks and chickens bought before directive enforced limiting islanders to 10 caged birds
by Chew Seng Kim

A TOTAL of 75 ducks and chickens owned by 18 households on Pulau Ubin were bought by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) yesterday, as part of an effort to reduce the risk of these backyard creatures getting bird flu from wild birds. The purchases were made a day before the islanders are required to comply with a directive to keep no more than 10 birds - in cages - per household, after which, any excess poultry will be removed by the authorities.

Said AVA spokesman Goh Shih Yong: 'We understand the residents kept some of the fowl as their livelihood and decided to buy those over at market rate.' He added: 'While Singapore and Pulau Ubin remain free of bird flu, we still want to make sure the disease does not enter the country via Ubin's backyard farms, as it's not practical for those to have the same biosecurity features as the commercial farms on the mainland.'

Singapore currently bans all Malaysian poultry because of bird flu outbreaks in Kelantan detected on Aug 17. While the ban, which began on Aug 18, has cut off more than two-thirds of the daily supply of poultry and eggs here, the authorities on both sides of the Causeway are now discussing the resumption of imports from disease-free states such as Malacca and Johor.

Yesterday's exercise is the second to be conducted this year. When bird flu hit several places in Asia earlier this year, the AVA rounded up 544 ducks and chickens from Pulau Ubin households. Residents were paid up to $10 for each chicken and $15 for each duck collected by the authorities yesterday. The excess poultry will be slaughtered, processed and given to charity.

Islander Lim Chor Gan, who sold about 10 birds to the AVA in February, yesterday sold more of his fowl - five chickens and three ducks, which he rears in makeshift cages for personal consumption. The 62-year-old, who has lived on Pulau Ubin all his life, used to earn his livelihood from fishing off the north-eastern island's shores, before dwindling fish supplies forced him to dabble in orchid planting. That enterprise also ceased about two years ago because of a lack of business.

Now he survives on money he gets from his two children living in Tampines. He said in Mandarin: 'I suppose it's the right thing to do, since bird flu can become a really big problem. But I know there are still some wild fowl running around on the island.'


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