Patrols to curb releasing of animals

Patrols to curb releasing of animals
This pond in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is one site where people often release animals. These are usually people tired of their pets or those practising religious rites.

Efforts will be stepped up to prevent people from releasing animals into the wild, during the two weeks leading up to Vesak Day on June 1.

From Saturday to the end of the month, officers from the National Parks Board (NParks) and national water agency PUB will conduct periodic patrols at 19 parks, nature areas, reservoirs and waterways. Volunteers - including those from community groups Waterways Watch Society, Punggol South RiverWatch Group and Toddycats! - will join them.

The patrols are part of Operation No Release, an annual campaign that spreads public awareness on the harm of releasing animals into the wild.

Animals such as birds, fish and red-eared terrapins are released at reservoirs and parks as a symbolic gesture of compassion to mark Vesak Day.

NParks, PUB and the AgriFood and Veterinary Authority said yesterday they will work together to educate the public on the issue. Said Mr Wong Tuan Wah, director of conservation at NParks: "Many of the released animals are unlikely to survive and, most often, face a slow and painful death as they are unable to cope with their new surroundings."

Mr Ridzuan Ismail, PUB's director of catchment and waterways, said the release of animals into reservoirs and waterways may have an ecological impact on the freshwater ecosystems. This can happen when non-native species prey on the native species, out-compete them for resources or introduce new diseases.

In recent years, insects such as crickets have also been released, with devotees believing that they are less likely to harm the environment. Nature Society president Shawn Lum, however, said it is not so much the type of animal being released but that releasing anything which is not native to the ecosystem is potentially detrimental.

Singapore Buddhist Federation president Seck Kwang Phing said: "Devotees can be compassionate in other ways, such as by being good to people or animals around them."

First-time offenders caught releasing animals could be fined up to $50,000, jailed up to six months, or both.

This article was first published on May 14, 2015.
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