Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Poaching In Kiasuland

I would like to share with you our neighbour seriousness on poaching by Sheralyn Tay. Can Bolehland be as tough?

NParks gets tough as poaching is on the rise here
By Sheralyn Tay
USING one bird as bait, Masod bin Mohamed had hoped to lure and catchmore, but the 33-year-old was nabbed in February by the authoritiesinstead. Masod was arrested at the Mayflower Crescent playground by a NationalParks Board (NParks) ranger and, on Sept 11, became the first person hereto be charged and convicted of poaching, in a magistrate's court. He wasslapped with the maximum penalty - a fine of $2,000.

Wildlife experts here say that Masod's case is not an isolated one. Animal activists believe poaching is a problem as wildlife numbers arediminishing.

But the authorities are getting tough.

Since 2000, NParks have issued compound fines to more than 300 people forcapturing fishes and animals in parks and nature reserves. Compound finesare meted on the spot, like parking fines.

In August, the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) - for the firsttime - fined a poacher $500 for trapping birds in Changi.

Masod's conviction is a signal that they take a firm stand against against trapping, especially when it is for personal gain, said Ms Sharon Chan, NParks' assistant director of the central nature reserve.

"Much effort has been put into conserving our natural heritage for the public to enjoy and to make Singapore a unique urban city rich in bio-diversity. We have to take a strong stand against poachers who are destroying all these for their own short-term profit."

The AVA only allows the house crow, feral pigeon, purple-backed starling, Philippine glossy starling, common myna and the white-vented myna to be trapped and kept without a licence.

Hot spots for poachers include Pasir Ris Park, Khatib Bongsu and Seletar Airbase, and common targets for poachers are freshwater fish, flying lemurs and water monitor lizards as well as songsbirds, which are either sold or kept as pets.

But small animals are not the only ones being trapped. Last weekend, Mr Ben Lee, founder and head of Nature Trekker, a non-profit organisation, discovered a large boar trap in the foliage on Pulau Ubin.

On Saturday, he found a second trap (picture) large enough to hold 25 men.

"I mistook it for someone's house," he said, adding that in most cases, boars were often caught to be eaten. However, Mr Grant Pereira, head of the Green Volunteers Network, noted that the traps may have been set by farmers to control the large boar population, which wreak havoc on crops. "But it's a slippery slope; once you start trapping, it can … become exploitative," he said.

Poaching, he added, has affected wildlife numbers. In the last 30 years, the numbers of birds and fishes have been diminishing. According a recent study by bird watchers, 44 bird species have become extinct.

"We need more awareness, and more incentive for people to report traps when they see them," Mr Pereira said.

Seen a trap or a poacher? Report it to the NParks Helpline at 1-800-4717300 or the AVA at 6227 0670.

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