Chicken culling issue raises need for more awareness

A red junglefowl spotted at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

The recent culling of chickens by the authorities here highlights the constant tension between animal lovers and those who are less enamoured by them, said Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday.

"It's a very real issue. It's not just about chickens. It's about dogs, cats and pets in general," said Mr Tan.

"We live in close proximity... Many people are pet lovers but there are people who also don't like pets. We need to exercise mutual understanding and give and take."

He added that some members of the public could be uncomfortable with certain animals due to lack of information, and that more awareness is needed.

He was speaking at an Acres (Animal Concerns Research and Education Society) event to rehome Rahayu, the endangered turtle.

Wild chickens in Singapore will be culled by AVA

  • Red Junglefowl, the ancestor of all domestic chickens, at Singapore Botanic Gardens. The authorities are planning to cull chickens that are running wild over Singapore. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said it takes action whenever it receives complaints about noise.
  • It is a threatened resident animal in Singapore, and is on the 'Endangered' list in the Singapore Red Data Book. The National Parks Board is also mulling over a similar move, but for a different reason: concerns that the chickens may interbreed with their endangered ascendants, the native red junglefowl.
  • A domestic chicken with guinea fowl near Turf City on Feb 1, 2017. "Growth in free-ranging chicken populations increases the potential of interbreeding with red junglefowl and will adversely affect the conservation of our native species," Dr Lena Chan, group director of NParks' National Biodiversity Centre, told The Straits Times.
  • Dr Wee Yeow Chin, founding president of the Nature Society (Singapore), said that with rapid interbreeding, the native species will be reduced and be replaced by hybrids. NParks will be partnering the local conservation community to strengthen the protection of the red junglefowl.
  • Dr Chan said: "This includes monitoring the overall red junglefowl distribution and population size, studying the extent of interbreeding and managing the population of free-ranging chickens." Though they may look similar, the red junglefowl has a number of distinct traits that set it apart from chickens.
  • This dilutes the genetic pool of the native junglefowl. The purebred red junglefowl have grey legs, whereas chickens mostly have yellow legs. While chickens sport red combs, female junglefowl do not.
  • Red junglefowl, unlike chickens, can fly and are quieter. Their calls are high-pitched and truncated. The authorities said purebred red junglefowl are known to occur only on offshore Pulau Ubin and the Western Catchment area.
  • Ms Jessica Kwok, AVA group director of the animal management group, said the authority has received requests to manage the free-ranging chicken population due to noise pollution. "To address these, AVA works with NParks to conduct surveillance and control operations to safeguard public health and mitigate nuisance issues," she said.
  • A female jungle fowl herding her chicks on St John's Island on 4 February 2014. Last year, AVA received reports from residents of Pasir Ris and Thomson about the noise from free-ranging chickens. Due to a lack of relocation options in land-scarce Singapore, the chickens will be humanely euthanised, Ms Kwok said.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) killed 24 free-roaming chickens in Sin Ming after residents made 20 noise complaints last year.

While some viewed the birds as a nuisance, others were upset to see them go.

The AVA said that Pasir Ris and Thomson residents had also complained last year about noise from free-ranging chickens; and that it would take action whenever it receives noise complaints.

Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC and Acres founder and chief executive officer Louis Ng said yesterday that instead of culling chickens, the authorities should look into other solutions, such as relocating the animals or putting them up for adoption.

"Ultimately, euthanasia is still the worst option," he said.

"Let's get an accurate sense of what's happening on the ground," he added, pointing out that 20 complaints could have come from one or two people calling repeatedly.

Read also: Keeping close watch on free-ranging chickens

This article was first published on Feb 3, 2017.
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