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Extreme wildlife protection laws could hurt conservation

There is a poll on the Reach Singapore website regarding the implementation of additional wildlife legislation.

It is critical that the public take a deep interest in the poll, keeping the future generations in mind.

Some of the suggestions that are made by the Wild Animals Legislation Review Committee seem rather extreme and would be disastrous if passed, as hobbies like fishing could be affected.

While poaching has always been a concern to conservationists, a species must have significant commercial importance in order for it to become severely threatened by poaching.

Elephants and tigers, hunted for their ivory and skin respectively, are great examples. But how many such species exist in Singapore?

The single biggest threat to species survival in Singapore is habitat destruction.

Designated protected areas should stay that way if possible, without being compromised by urban development (for example, expressways) or by reclamation.

If habitat destruction cannot be stopped, what is the point of keeping animals out of the general population's reach?

The Wild Animals and Birds Act is effectively keeping nature out of the reach of the general public.

If stricter laws are passed, it will be devastating to the development of the younger generation. Simple pastimes like spider catching and caterpillar catching to understand biology at a young age will be discouraged. Child development will be affected by preservationist ideals which are not realistic in the world of climate change and habitat loss.

Extreme wildlife legislation would, in fact, hamper any individual attempt to understand and help wildlife.

Wildlife preservation societies alone are insufficient in the fight against the loss of biodiversity.

This can be seen in the slow progress of amphibian conservation worldwide, with some biologists already claiming that it could be too late. In fact, efforts of private amphibian collectors are being recognised as a major boost in preventing species extinction.

Wildlife legislation has to empower people to help wildlife directly, as how Australians are empowered to help rescue native wildlife while removing invasive ones.

Sir David Attenborough, a world-renowned naturalist, suggested that Britain is losing generations of young naturalists owing to overwhelming wildlife protection laws.

He has claimed that he would never have become a naturalist if such laws had been in place during his time, as collecting bird eggs would have been deemed illegal. His interest in nature would never have developed under such laws.

This could very well be the case for Singapore should additional extreme wildlife protection laws be passed. By creating a disconnect between the public and wildlife, it sows the seeds of conservation failure and has the potential to punish young children with an interest in nature.

Laws should be passed based on the intent, as long as no direct harm comes to wildlife.

Ong Junkai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 01, 2018, with the headline 'Extreme wildlife protection laws could hurt conservation'. Subscribe