Surgeon gets $2k fine for feeding endangered birds

Lee fed endangered grey-headed fish eagles with live fish injected with air to get a perfect photo.
Lee fed endangered grey-headed fish eagles with live fish injected with air to get a perfect photo.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

An orthopaedic surgeon earlier charged with feeding endangered birds to get a perfect photograph was yesterday fined $2,000.

Lee Soon Tai, 63, who runs a clinic at the Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, had committed the offence on two occasions last year in Bukit Batok Town Park.

Lee, who pleaded guilty yesterday to two of four charges, had fed endangered grey-headed fish eagles with live fish injected with air. He did it with three others - production assistant engineer Sathiananthen Rasalingam, 51; property officer Tran Thuong Chung Linh, 25; aircraft engineer V. V. Shanmuga Sundaram, 50 - on July 19 and Aug 16 last year. The Straits Times understands that action will be taken against the other three parties.

Lee was also initially accused of littering by throwing dying fish into a pond on two occasions at the park, which is managed by the National Parks Board (NParks).

But the littering charges were amended to attempting to feed endangered birds and taken into consideration in sentencing.

In asking for a fine of $1,000 to $1,500 per charge, Deputy Public Prosecutor Parvathi Menon said: "The sentence should dissuade photographers from baiting animals just to get good shots."

Asking for a fine of $1,000 per charge, Lee's lawyer Lee Teck Leng argued that his client was not trying to harm the eagles and did not know the eagles were endangered.

Those guilty of littering or feeding an animal in a public park can be fined up to $5,000 for each offence.

Mr Wong Tuan Wah, NParks group director for conservation, said the board takes a serious view of the feeding of wild animals as this could introduce diseases or parasites and affect the animal's overall well-being.

Noting that NParks has not received feedback on similar activities in its parks and green spaces since this case, Mr Wong urged the public to avoid manipulating any flora or fauna subject when taking photos.

He said: "When photographing animals, one should also avoid feeding or the use of artificial lures and calls in order to attract the animals as this might potentially endanger or cause discomfort to the animals."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2016, with the headline 'Surgeon gets $2k fine for feeding endangered birds'. Print Edition | Subscribe