Nearly 1,000 birds, other wildlife accidentally caught by glue traps meant for rats since 2020

(Clockwise from top left) A wolf snake and a gecko, a baby common palm civet and a kingfisher are among the animals accidentally caught by the glue traps. PHOTOS: ACRES

SINGAPORE – A traumatised baby common palm civet was rescued after being found plastered to a glue trap at an army camp here on Jan 31.

“The most painstaking step was to free the baby civet from the glue trap as she was screaming in distress,” said Ms Anbarasi Boopal, co-chief executive of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), which was alerted to the incident.

The team used oil to gently prise the civet, said to be a few weeks old, from the glue.

They gave her water to prevent dehydration before removing the glue from her fur.

The baby civet, named Gluey Sayang by Acres, is not the first animal to have fallen victim to a glue trap, which is commonly used for rodents and geckos.

Acres has been alerted to about 85 cases since December 2022, equivalent to about one a day, said Ms Anbarasi. It has received reports of 985 cases from 2020 to the end of February.

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“This is the tip of the iceberg, as someone kind enough spotted them and called for help. We suspect that a lot more animals might not be getting spotted, or it was too late for them,” she added.

“Often, the animal would be stuck to the glue for an unknown period of time, resulting in dehydration or even starvation.”

Glue traps are boards or trays coated with a strong adhesive to trap pests such as rodents. They are used in places such as condominiums, workplace compounds and industrial areas.

But wild animals also get caught in the immobilising glue, which tears off fur or feathers as the animals struggle to get free. Some may even break bones or chew through their limbs to escape.

About 75 per cent of the trapped animals over the years were birds, including protected species such as raptors, kingfishers and doves, and the ubiquitous rock pigeons and mynahs. Others included monitor lizards, snakes, toads, squirrels and bats.

Ms Anbarasi said: “Not all animals that get caught on glue traps survive. Many animals may even have to be euthanised as the intense suffering and irreversible damage make it hard for them to rehabilitate.”

She added that trapping rodents does not solve the root cause of infestation – the availability of food scraps, water and shelter allowing the pests to thrive. Since rats are fast breeders, the ones killed will be quickly replaced if the environment remains conducive for them.

“One of the most disturbing and ironic cases involved a trapped rat with a fully grown python also on the trap. It clearly indicates that we have natural predators, and without addressing the root cause of food sources (for pests), putting such traps will not be effective in the long run.”

Gluey Sayang is still under the care of Acres and is undergoing rehabilitation.

Gluey Sayang was rescued after being found plastered to a glue trap at an army camp here on Jan 31. PHOTOS: ACRES

“We are not sure if she will make it through the ordeal and the rehabilitation. We need to care for her until she is old enough and learns to be independent before she is released back to the wild. She has been separated from her family.”

In Singapore, glue traps are considered an effective method of trapping and removing rodents. Glue boards and cans of anti-pest glue are sold online and in hardware stores.

“Glue traps are an awful way for an animal to die, whether a target species or not,” said Nature Society (Singapore) president Shawn Lum. “They are unimaginably cruel and cause stress and indescribable suffering to animals caught in them.”

Places such as Ireland, Iceland, New Zealand and Victoria in Australia have banned glue traps. In Britain, only those using a government-granted licence can use glue traps.

Acres is calling for the sale and use of glue traps to be strictly regulated and eventually phased out in Singapore, and has raised this issue at its wildlife working group meetings.

The National Parks Board (NParks) said it is aware of the potential for the unintentional trapping of wildlife when glue traps are used for pest control. 

Its director of wildlife management and outreach How Choon Beng said: “Together with the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Singapore Pest Management Association, we are looking into how the use of glue traps can be avoided in some situations and mitigated in others, and are revising guidelines to achieve this.”

NEA currently allows cages and glue boards to be used in estates or facilities where rat poison is not allowed or may be potentially dangerous.

Under its guidelines, glue boards should be placed in remote areas or places inaccessible to stray animals. If a glue board is used in an outdoor area, it must be covered to prevent trapping other animals.

About 75 per cent of the trapped animals over the years were birds. They also included monitor lizards, snakes, toads, squirrels and bats. PHOTOS: ACRES

Two pest control firms The Straits Times spoke to said other animals were not trapped when they followed the guidelines.

Mr Azlam Shah Alias, founder of AZantz Services, said: “When we have to use glue traps, we will place them in areas often accessed by rodents but less likely to be accessed by other wildlife, such as in ceiling boards.”

But some owners of premises tamper with or move glue traps to other spots that they think have a better chance of capturing rats, said Mr Edwin Kwek, managing director of PestWerkz Solutions.

Pest control firms do not encourage people to buy glue traps to solve pest issues on their own.

Mr Azlam said: “The public does not have the proper training to use glue traps and will not know the right techniques to place them properly. They may accidentally trap other animals and birds.”

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