Proposed Bill on wildlife may penalise nature lovers

Wild boars spotted around Tuas bus interchange on Jun 15, 2017.
Wild boars spotted around Tuas bus interchange on Jun 15, 2017.PHOTO: ST FILE

Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng, who heads the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), organised a seminar on Aug 16 to gain support for a private member's Bill that he will introduce in Parliament.

He wants to amend the Wild Animals and Birds Act to make it illegal to feed or release any form of wildlife in Singapore and the surrounding waters.

His plan runs counter to ground-up conservation efforts worldwide. The proposals will curtail spontaneous activities to promote nature, infringe the rights of private property owners and put conservation-minded fishermen on the wrong side of the law.

Nature groups know that people learn to love wildlife through spontaneous and easily accessible activities. The home is a convenient place to start.

In many countries, people set up feeding stations to attract both songbirds and butterflies to their gardens. It happens in Singapore , too.

When former president S R Nathan wanted hornbills to become established at the Istana, he ensured that they were well fed. Following his example, private householders persuaded passing hornbills to stay by providing nest boxes and food on their premises too. Today, these impressive birds, formerly extremely rare, are frequently sighted.

A number of schools and hospitals have set up nature gardens to attract songbirds and butterflies. Supplementary feeding is sometimes provided.

Responsible fishermen return undersized catches back into the water alive. During religious merit-making ceremonies, devotees buy live crabs and prawns from markets to release into the sea.

If Mr Ng gets his Bill through Parliament, all these activities may be illegal.

A member of Mr Ng's committee has stated that permits may be granted to allow designated organisations to feed and release wildlife. He did not specify the criteria for selecting such organisations.

If this Bill is passed, instead of enjoying the sight of wild birds in my garden, would I have to view them only in designated areas where I might even be charged for admission?

If another monitor lizard walks into my house and I trap it and release it elsewhere, will I be prosecuted? If the job is done by an authorised organisation, how much would I have to pay?

Mr Ng's proposed amendments will create monopolies for the management of wildlife. Should this be allowed in Singapore, which prides itself on having an open economy?

Lee Chiu San

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2019, with the headline 'Proposed Bill on wildlife may penalise nature lovers'. Print Edition | Subscribe