Bringing all animal-related functions under NParks welcomed by groups

Sightings of wildlife, like these wild boars in Pasir Ris, are dealt by the National Parks Board, while the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority is referred to when wildlife wander into urban areas. PHOTO: ST FILE

Animal and green groups generally welcomed the transfer of animal-related functions under the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) to the National Parks Board (NParks), saying it can lead to greater efficiency and more effective policies.

The move will combine NParks' expertise in wildlife conservation and horticultural science, and AVA's in animal and plant health, said the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, and the Ministry of National Development.

Under changes announced yesterday, the AVA will cease to exist by next April, with about 300 of its staff moving to NParks.

Dr Siew Tuck Wah, president of animal welfare group SOSD, said having a single lead agency in dealing with wildlife might streamline the management of wildlife here.

NParks currently deals with public tip-offs on wildlife spotted in a park or nature reserve, but cases in which wildlife wander into urban areas are referred to AVA.

Dr Siew said this means that if SOSD wants to carry out sterilisation or rescue operations for a stray dog that wandered into a park from a road, it has to go through multiple agencies.

Other groups expressed hope that the combined expertise of AVA and NParks will lead to better targeted action on environmental and wildlife issues here.

Acres, or the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, welcomed the move, saying "it makes more sense to approach and handle issues holistically".

Ms Elaine Tan, chief executive of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Singapore, said it hopes NParks will take the lead on issues including human-wildlife conflict, illegal wildlife trade and conservation of natural resources.

Mr Jaipal Singh Gill, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), said it hopes NParks will put animal welfare firmly on the agenda.

As for the Nature Society (Singapore), even as it welcomed the potential cutting of red tape, it called for more resources, especially manpower, to be allocated to manage and monitor wildlife.

Its president Shawn Lum said there will be increased instances of human-wildlife conflict, but the agencies managing wildlife are currently very stretched.

"As the jurisdiction (of NParks) becomes wider, there must be more investment to reap the benefits of structural change and manage thorny issues such as wildlife smuggling," said Dr Lum.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2018, with the headline Bringing all animal-related functions under NParks welcomed by groups. Subscribe