NParks looking into incident of man feeding wild hornbills at Loyang Way Food Village

The video shows patrons watching the birds as the hornbills pick food off dining tables. PHOTOS: FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - The National Parks Board (NParks) is investigating after a man was seen feeding bananas to a pair of hornbills at Loyang Way Food Village.

A member of public caught the act on video, which also showed the birds eating leftovers.

Under the Wildlife Act, first-time offenders caught feeding wildlife may be fined up to $5,000, and repeat offenders could be fined up to $10,000, said NParks on Friday (Dec 4).

The video, which was circulated via social media on Sunday, shows patrons watching the birds as the hornbills pick food off dining tables.

Shortly after, a man in a blue T-shirt peels a banana and throws some chunks to the pair.

The larger hornbill can be seen feeding the smaller hornbill pieces of the fruit.

Several nature enthusiasts slammed the act online.

"NParks has put in so much effort to revive the hornbill population in Singapore.

"I am very concerned that hornbills will become bolder and a nuisance like monkeys and pigeons because humans deliberately feed them or leave uncleared food in food centres," said retiree Choo Hor Kan, 64, who shared the video on the Nature Society Singapore's Facebook group.

Chinese-language evening daily Lianhe Wanbao on Monday identified the man as a Mr Tan.

He told the paper he was not aware that by feeding the birds, it would become a daily habit for the hornbills.

"A customer told me that if I feed fruits to these type of birds, they will leave," said the 48-year-old dish collector, who works at the coffee shop.

For around six months, Mr Tan would prepare two bananas provided by his boss or bought with his own money.

"I don't have a choice; if I don't feed them, they would not leave," he added.

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A stallholder running the drinks stall told Wanbao that the birds started visiting around half a year ago.

They would appear almost every day between 11am and 4pm.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, NParks said that it takes a serious view of wild animal feeding.

"One of the main reasons why wildlife approach humans is due to feeding.

"Feeding, intentional or otherwise, alters the natural behaviour of wildlife, and habituates them to human presence and reliance on humans for an easy source of food," said Mr How Choon Beng, director of wildlife management at NParks.

This may lead to aggressive behaviour when encountering humans.

Wild animals may also venture into urban areas to find human sources of food, which poses a potential danger to motorists and the animals when they wander onto roads.

Feeding may also result in an unsustainable increase in populations due to an artificial increase in food, said Mr How.

This can also lead to wildlife losing their natural foraging skills and struggling to survive in their natural environment when there is no readily available food source.

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