Photographs of a man who appeared to be mishandling a little tern chick have ruffled the feathers of the birding community here.
The red-shirted man seemed to be tethering the baby bird's legs to a bush so it could be posed for a photograph. Shots posted on Facebook on Monday showed the young tern struggling in front of a bush, unable to move away.
Little terns are a species native to Singapore which nest on sandy ground. The young are usually flightless until they fledge, which takes about 25 days.
The man is believed to have done this to allow two other bird photographers to snap a shot of the chick against a "clean, mess-free background with good lighting".
"He continued even when the parent tern was in distress, flying overhead and close to the ground - the other photographers then took the opportunity to snap shots of the bird in flight," said Mr Jaieden Shen, an amateur bird photographer who witnessed the incident.
Mr Shen, who is in his early 30s, had visited the site in Tuas on Monday afternoon to take pictures of the terns.
Upon realising what the trio was up to, Mr Shen said he took some shots and left, as he felt uncomfortable about the situation.
Mr Shen also said he informed the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), which asked for more details of the trio but also told him that tying up a bird's legs was technically not illegal.
Mr Alan Owyong, former chairman of the Nature Society's Bird Group, said there were ethics in dealing with nature, which most photographers adhere to.
He said: "The welfare of the birds, animals or plants is the top priority."
AVA said it has received feedback on the case and is investigating. Anyone found guilty of animal cruelty can be fined up to $10,000, jailed up to a year, or both.