Surgeon who baited endangered birds for photos fined $2,000

Lee Soon Tai, 62, committed the offence on two occasions in 2015 in Bukit Batok Town Park.
Lee Soon Tai, 62, committed the offence on two occasions in 2015 in Bukit Batok Town Park. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - An orthopaedic surgeon who was in June charged with feeding endangered birds with live fish injected with air just to get that perfect photograph, was on Tuesday (Oct 25) fined $2,000.

Lee Soon Tai, 62, who runs a clinic at the Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, committed the offence on two occasions in 2015, in Bukit Batok Town Park.

Lee, who pleaded guilty on Tuesday to two out of four charges, had fed an endangered grey-headed fish eagle with live fish injected with air, together with two other people - Sathiananthen Rasalingam and Tran Thuong Chung Linh - some time between 2pm and 5pm on July 19 last year.

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

 
 

But the two littering charges have been amended to attempting to feed endangered birds and these charges were 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."

Lee's lawyer, Mr Lee Teck Leng, meanwhile argued for a $1,000 fine per charge. He also argued in mitigation that his client was not trying to harm the eagles and that Lee was unaware that grey-headed fish eagles were endangered.

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

In October last year, a video of three photographers baiting grey-headed fish eagles in Bukit Batok by using live fish injected with air made its rounds on social media.

They apparently did this so that the fish would remain afloat and attract the attention of the bird.

This would help the photographers snap an "action" shot of an eagle swooping down on its prey on the water's surface.

NParks said at the time that it was investigating the case.

In 2014, a photographer was found guilty of animal cruelty and fined $500 for tethering the legs of a tern chick to a bush in order to take a picture of the bird.