Chickens had to be culled due to health risks: Dr Koh

Chickens had to be culled due to health risks: Dr Koh
A chicken and guinea fowl near Turf City on 1 February 2017.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Culling of animals will only be done as a last resort, said Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon after a public outcry over the culling of 24 free-ranging chickens in Sin Ming last month.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Dr Koh said the population of free-roaming chickens in Sin Ming had doubled to 50, and studies have shown chicken are more susceptible to the bird flu virus, compared to other birds such as pigeons.

Citing a report by the World Health Organisation, Dr Koh added that there is scientific evidence that chickens can in turn transmit the disease to humans.

That is why the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) felt it had to take action to manage the chicken population there, he said, noting that complaints about noise was not the only reason behind the culling.

Also the chickens, though free-roaming, are not wild birds, he said in response to Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng and Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh, who asked about the episode, which generated a debate that lasted nearly 30 minutes, as MPs sought more clarity on the issue and AVA's approach to culling.

ADVERSE

That is why they could not be relocated, as doing so adversely affects the genetic stock of the native red junglefowl - the endangered ancestor of the domestic chicken.

Dr Koh told Parliament that AVA is conducting scientific studies to enhance its animal management strategies.

He also urged people not to feed wildlife, as such a practice disturbs the balance in the ecosystem and will invariably increase human-wildlife contact, and lead to conflict.

On the Sin Ming birds, Dr Koh said AVA had initiated a study with the National University of Singapore in January last year to better understand the ecology and population of selected bird species here, one of which is free-ranging chickens.

He said: "AVA will also involve different stakeholders, including the community and animal welfare groups, in exploring various approaches and solutions.

"Culling will only be done as a last resort. Ultimately, we want to thrive as a City in a Garden, living in harmony with nature, and enjoying the flora and fauna around us."


This article was first published on Feb 21, 2017.
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