Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Squirrel drowning at Swiss Club: an update

Some of you might recall this post on STOMP, where a resident living in a bungalow in the Swiss Club area had trapped and drowned several squirrels. I was wondering if the authorities had anything to say about the matter; after all, the Wild Animals and Birds Act makes it illegal to catch or kill virtually all wild animals and birds found in Singapore.

However, there was a comment on the original post on STOMP that greatly disturbed me.

AVA_SINGAPORE said on 14 Apr, 2009

Under Section 6 of the Wild Animals and Birds Act, it is not unlawful "for the occupier or person in charge of any land to kill or take any wild animal or bird found damaging or destroying the crops or any other property thereon". However, wild animals that are caught should be surrendered to the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA). To contact AVA, the public can call 1800-476 1600.

Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority

I have to say, I am extremely disappointed with this response. Now I know why people in Singapore looking after stray cats and dogs have commented in the past about the incongruity of having animal welfare and animal control under the same government body.

Even if it is legal for a homeowner to catch and kill squirrels on the pretext of protecting his property, isn't it better to explore non-lethal solutions, instead of relying on the knee-jerk reaction of killing every squirrel gullible enough to enter the traps? It's not as if he is actually dealing with the problem in the first place. Does he really think that he can carry on trapping until every squirrel in the area has been trapped and drowned? He forgets that he lives close to the forests of the Central Nature Reserves. How long is he going to keep up with this pointless and completely unnecessary action? I am very sure that drowning one squirrel after another is not the best solution.

Come on, drowning squirrels because they gnaw on wires and drop nutshells on your garden? Is that really your pathetic excuse for killing them?

Sure, it's likely that the squirrels involved are either the plantain squirrel (Callosciurus notatus) or the slender squirrel (Sundasciurus tenuis), both of which are common and not considered to be endangered, but what if these squirrels happen to belong to one of our endangered squirrel species? Or what if he is indiscriminately killing common tree shrews (Tupaia glis), never mind that these are not rodents and unlikely to gnaw on wires in the first place? Besides, the post on STOMP hinted that the owner was also attempting to trap monkeys. And if he does manage to trap a monkey, what is he going to do? Drown it in his pond?

Will the AVA allow a person to loan a trap to catch and kill endangered species because they are damaging his property?

As VeganCatsg commented after AVA's response:
VeganCatsg said on 15 Apr, 2009

I suggest that AVA counsel such complainants with suggestions of humane solutions to wildlife intruding into private properties instead of offering FREE killing service to such private property owners who do not need FREE service at the expense of taxpayers.

Can AVA comment if the drowning of squirrels constitutes infringement of the animal cruelty act? If so, what is AVA doing to persecute the culprits?

Somebody else commented:
Independentobserver said on 15 Apr, 2009

Vegancat, I agree with you totally - I'm really uncomfortable with the reply "..not unlawful to KILL OR TAKE ANY WILD BIRD OR ANIMAL.." This is shocking ! What if tomorrow instead of a squirrel some leopard cat or flying lemur shows up in the house ? So the owner can just catch and drown these rare animals at will just because he or she considers it a pest ? I think SPCA should comment on this - if it's an offence to drown a cat or a dog, shouldn't the indiscriminate drowning of squirrels also be an offence ?

Does this mean that any person can phone in to the AVA and complain that a leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) is stalking his rabbits, or that a great-billed heron (Ardea sumatrana) is feasting on his koi, or that a lesser mousedeer (Tragulus kanchil) is nibbling his prized flowers, or that a pangolin (Manis javanica) is digging up his lawn, and could he please loan a trap so that he can capture and kill the offending animal? Will the AVA entertain such cases, or rightfully tell the person to suck it, count his blessings that he gets to enjoy watching wildlife in his own garden?

Even if wildlife is causing genuine problems, I'm sure that there are always solutions which do not require having to catching and killing native fauna. Would it really kill you to invest in some proper trunking to prevent the squirrels from gnawing at your wires? And are you seriously so hung up about nutshells in your garden?

I hope someone can go to that house in Swiss Club and tell the owner to suck it up, invest in non-lethal methods to manage his problems, and learn to appreciate his new neighbours, or move elsewhere if he is so incapable of learning to share his neighbourhood with wildlife.

Honestly pissed-off right now. I'm extremely disappointed with the AVA for giving such a response. I thought a government agency tasked with animal welfare would have more to say than just shrugging off the comments with an implicit endorsement of the homeowner's appalling actions. You can say that I am now very doubtful about the AVA's capability in handling animal welfare issues.

I've said this before, and this example only reinforces my belief that we Singaporeans are truly pathetic where it comes to managing wildlife problems. Other cities deal with megafauna such as deer, bears, coyotes, and cougars, often employing non-lethal means to reduce the problems posed by these large animals, while at the same time acknowledging that there is always an element of risk of coming into conflict with wildlife, especially when one chooses to live in an area where these animals are known to roam. And what do we have here? People kicking up a childish hissy fit over monkeys and squirrels.