Pasir Ris residents 'cry fowl' after AVA culling

They are upset about not being consulted and say chickens added to kampung atmosphere of area

Men from Mastermark Bird Control at Riverina View last month. An AVA spokesman said it has been getting feedback about the "growing free-roaming chicken population" in the area since last year.
Men from Mastermark Bird Control at Riverina View last month. An AVA spokesman said it has been getting feedback about the "growing free-roaming chicken population" in the area since last year.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Another fowl culling has ruffled feathers. This time it is the killing of free-roaming chickens in the Sungei Api Api area in Pasir Ris.

It comes barely a month after the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) took similar action in Sin Ming estate in Thomson, sparking a heated public debate.

Residents of the private estate beside Sungei Api Api said they used to see flocks of 10 birds or more until around two months ago, when the culling began. Now, only scattered groups of two to three birds remain, said lawyer Chia Boon Teck.

"There used to be more than 100 birds. Residents now wake up to a lifeless Sungei Api Api," said the 53-year-old, who lives in a semi-detached house in Riverina View, just beside the river.

Mr Chia and other residents in the area are angry that the AVA had culled the chickens without informing or discussing it with them.

They said the birds are the native red junglefowl, because they have grey legs - one of the distinct characteristics of this bird, which is an endangered species in Singapore.

The Straits Times saw about 20 of these birds during a visit to the estate last Thursday.

The AVA, however, said it was "highly unlikely" the birds are the red junglefowl, usually found on Pulau Ubin and in the western catchment area near Lim Chu Kang.

In January, the AVA culled 24 free-roaming chickens in Sin Ming after it got 20 complaints about noise, and concerns over avian flu. The move sparked a public outcry that culminated in Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon assuring MPs in Parliament that it was done only as a last resort.

In the case of Pasir Ris, an AVA spokesman said it has been receiving feedback about the "growing free-roaming chicken population" since January last year. She also said if these feathered flocks were left unchecked, they could pose a threat to public health in the event that bird flu is brought here by migratory birds.The AVA declined to disclose how many complaints were received and chickens killed.

Mr Chia, who is vice-chairman of the neighbourhood committee, said it was "regrettable" that the AVA did not work with them to look into the complaints.

Other residents, like account director Faisal Salim, 49, are dismayed, saying that without the chickens, the "kampung atmosphere" of the estate is gone.

"You can't get the flora, fauna and fowls of this place in many estates in Singapore," said Mr Faisal, who has lived in the area for 10 years.

Housewife Fiona Oliveiro, 46, said her maid had seen men catching the birds with nets in late January. The Straits Times had also spotted bird control experts catching the wild chickens last month.

The birds crow in the morning, but residents have learnt to live with it, Ms Oliveiro said.

Retiree Ng Cher Peng said some people find the birds an annoyance when they fly into their gardens and roost there. But they do not return when chased away, he added.

"If the AVA wants to cull, it should cull the mynahs and pigeons, which are more of a nuisance," said the 62-year-old.

Mr Louis Ng, an MP for Nee Soon GRC and an animal welfare advocate, said the AVA needs to share details on how it plans to manage free-roaming chickens.

"The population of these birds will control itself as long as there is no external food source. The key is to not cull the chickens, but to tell residents not to feed them," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 20, 2017, with the headline 'Pasir Ris residents 'cry fowl' after AVA culling'. Subscribe