Killing spree by stray dogs on human-modified environments

Hi everyone! Previously I shared my observations of Free-ranging domestic dog (FRDDs) packs. Not only are the pack gaining more dog members, I realised that the FRDD packs are venturing into residential areas more frequently as well. These occurrences started happening after the establishment of new residential flats in Tampines.

“Stray dogs entering residential areas”. Photo by Liza Hamid, with permission

This photo was from 7 November 2018, which coincides with the construction period of Build-To-Order flats in Tampines. I wonder if this observation has got to do with the increasing land use for residential areas. If so, are they venturing to new territories they have yet to explore?

Indeed, there were reports by some park visitors of the stray dog packs in Tampines nature parks under the National Parks Board. I suspect there would be an increased probability of dog-wildlife conflict in the parks, considering there are stray dog-cat conflicts.

    “Fatal attack of a cat by stray dogs” Photo by Rachel Ong

 

My suspicion is confirmed by the predation on primates by FRDDs in Bukit Timah Reserve (Riley et al., 2015). It was observed that a pack of 3FRDDs killed a juvenile Long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis). Though Singapore’s Animal Veterinary Authority has culled 360 macaques in 2013 in response to 920 complaints from residents living near the reserve borders or park visitors, of “monkey nuisance”. The Macaca fascicularis is considered “Vulnerable” under the IUCN Red List, meaning they face high extinction risk in the wild.

The unfortunate attack happened on a man-made bicycle path within the reserve. Well, being on an anthropogenic landscape has decreased the macaque’s probability of survival since it was not on a tree where the dogs cannot reach, nor did it had time to respond and climb onto trees. Hence, one seemingly harmless man-made path raised the susceptibility of the prey to FRDD attacks. This occurrence reflects my sentiment on how anthropogenic factors are tied to the increasing impacts of FRDDs.

I wondered if humans have unknowingly paved the way for FRDDs in becoming effective predators of wildlife species, with our modifications to the environment?  Let us investigate if Australia has magnified impacts of FRDD due to human-modified environments.

The study by Taylor et al. (2018) addresses how the environmental impacts by FRDD could potentially be amplified by urbanisation. The data collected from Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital and Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre showed that dog attacks were the second most common reason for wildlife to be admitted for medical treatment, with car strikes being the first. It was highlighted that Koala bears (Phascolarctos cinereus), classified as vulnerable under IUCN Red List, were attacked by FRDDs in urbanised areas at bridges and telegraph poles. This signifies how human-modified environments not only cause habitat loss and habitat fragmentation, but it could also facilitate hunting of wildlife by dogs as well.

This highlights the need for wildlife conservation methods to be reconsidered in the process of urban expansion, with the FRDDs in mind.

I’ll side-track here: Do you think the culling of Macaques by Singapore is appropriate or just a knee-jerk reaction to complaints? The vulnerability of the Macaca fascicularis species reflects the intra-specific taxa assessment of the subspecies Macaca fascicularis ssp. philippensis in Philippines, threatened by sport hunting, research purposes and consumption by humans. On the other hand, the macaque is considered invasive under the Global Invasive Species Database (GISD), managed by IUCN, due to their impacts on native biodiversity. Isn’t Singapore doing biodiversity a favour? I’ll discuss more about environmental ethics in decision making related to FRDD in my next post!

 

References:
Eudey, A., Kumar, A., Singh, M. & Boonratana, R. 2020. Macaca fascicularis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T12551A17949449. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-2.RLTS.T12551A17949449.en. Downloaded on 30 October 2020.

Riley Koenig, Crystal & Koenig, Bryan & Gumert, Michael. (2015). Observation of a fatal dog attack on a juvenile long-tailed macaque in a human-modified environment in Singapore. Nature in Singapore. 8. 57-63.

Taylor-Brown A, Booth R, Gillett A, Mealy E, Ogbourne SM, et al. (2019) The impact of human activities on Australian wildlife. PLOS ONE 14(1): e0206958. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0206958

Woinarski, J. & Burbidge, A.A. 2020. Phascolarctos cinereus (amended version of 2016 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T16892A166496779. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-1.RLTS.T16892A166496779.en. Downloaded on 30 October 2020.

It’s all about poop

Hi everyone! I always get myself into weird situations and… I actually ended up on the news.

Most importantly from the incident, the cat (with an owner) was trapped due to “repeated feedback regarding cat defecation and urination outside a resident’s unit”. This highlights the issue where owned free-ranging domestic cats (FRDC) may defecate around residential areas.The cleaners would have to clean up, usually with buckets of water, adding onto Singapore’s water consumption levels.

 

Now I’ll share with you a greater problem of defecation highlighted by Dr. Coleman, on how this natural body process can escalate into a disaster for wildlife. Let us look at the Sea otters (Enhydra lutris), and why their population numbers are not improving.

The otters were listed threatened in 1977 under the Endangered Species Act by the US Fish and Wildlife Services, with a population index below 3090 for three consecutive years (Carswell, n.d.). With the population threatened by the hunt for its fur and oil spills. To add fuel to the fire, it was discovered in 1996 that Toxoplasma gondii was one of the culprits of dead Otters of Montreal Bay. Unfortunately, this parasite penetrates and damages the brain tissue, eventually leading to death.

What’s surprising: Only Felidae family members are definitive hosts of Toxoplasma, including cats.

Let us track how the Toxoplasma gondii ended up in the oceans.

In 2013, the otters were considered endangered under the IUCN Red list as they face a high risk of extinction in the wild. It is worrying as otters are keystone species that maintain the kelp forest ecosystem. One of its valuable functions in protecting kelp forest is by consuming sea urchins, preventing the takeover of kelp forest with “urchin barrens”, which damages the ecosystem and other marine species.

However, it’s not all the FRDC’s fault that the toxoplasma ends up in the sea. With a growing population and increasing urbanization, forests and grasslands are replaced with impervious pavements. These impermeable surfaces result in a larger surface runoff as compared to the permeable soil that was previously removed. As such, more fecal pathogens can be carried to the sea. This also increases the runoff pollutants to wetlands, changing its water quality, and promoting wetland degradation. Ironically, the forest, grassland, and wetland all serve as natural filters that can filter out pathogens entering the water, including Toxoplasma (Aguiar et al., n.d).

To end off, otters are sentinel species, where sudden mass mortality serves as the detection of upcoming health threats posed to humans. This is especially due to otters’ vulnerability to anthropogenic diseases and parasites (Jessup et al., 2004).

The least we can do is to keep our cats indoors, and less water containing defecation would be washed directly into the sea without treatment.

Paws out!

 

References
Aguiar, D., Shapiro, K., Cox, J. and Ancheta, C., n.d. How A Parasite In Cats Is Killing Sea Otters. [online] EVOTIS. Available at: <http://www.evotis.org/toxoplasma-gondii-sea-otters> [Accessed 23 October 2020].

Carswell, L., n.d. Southern Sea Otter. [online] US Fish & Wildlife Service. Available at: <https://www.fws.gov/ventura/endangered/species/info/sso.html#:~:text=Southern%20sea%20otters%20(Enhydra%20lutris,the%20primary%20reasons%20for%20listing.> [Accessed 23 October 2020].

Jessup, David & Miller, Melissa & Ames, Jack & Harris, Mike & Johnson, Christine & Conrad, Patricia & Mazet, Jonna. (2004). Southern Sea Otter as a Sentinel of Marine Ecosystem Health. EcoHealth. 1. 239-245. 10.1007/s10393-004-0093-7.

National Sea Grant College Program. (2002, December 23). Parasite In Cats Killing Sea Otters. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/12/021223084339.htm

Cats are tigers afterall

Hi everyone! For this week, let me share with you a “crime scene” I witnessed on 10 August 2020.

“Malaysian Pied Fantail” by Tony Castro

The victim is a Sunda Pied Fantail (Rhipidura javanica). It was unfortunately killed by this free-ranging domestic cat (FRDC).

As a veterinary nurse, I instinctively wanted to save the bird, but it was visible that the muscles have stiffened via rigor mortis – meaning it has died for some time. The cat did not seem to be interested in consuming the bird and left. I analysed the bird’s body but did not find any blood or bite wounds, from this I recall a myth that birds can be frightened to death from getting chased by predators…? Out of curiosity, I did a quick research to find out if anyone debunked that myth.

While I couldn’t find concrete articles if getting chased by predators can frighten birds to death. I did find out that fear of predators’ sounds has caused song sparrows (Melospiza melodia) to alter nesting behaviour which reduced offspring numbers by 40% in a controlled study. Even though song sparrows are “least concerned” under IUCN, a change in the population numbers in one trophic level can potentially disrupt a whole ecosystem.

I’ll get back to the bigger picture – Cat predation.

Pie-chart of predation numbers in the United States, statistics by Loss et al. (2013)

In a study by Loss et al. (2013), predation numbers were derived using probability distribution parameters based on different studies here  Additionally, the FRDCs have caused extinctions of 63 species worldwide (Doherty et al., 2016). All the unique adaptation processes developed through evolution, all gone.

I can’t imagine how many ecosystems have been disrupted and the ecological processes that are lost – such as seed dispersal and pollination by the birds (Trouwborst et al., 2020). The reduced seed dispersal rates inevitably lower the abundance of producers (usually plants) that form the base of the food chains of all ecosystems. The plants photosynthesise using sunlight to produce glucose, allowing energy to flow from one trophic level to another. Not to forget the medicinal values the native plants may carry and how they regulate our atmosphere via oxygen production.

It’s no wonder Feline catus is listed as one of the top 100 invasive species in the world by IUCN.

Previously, I did not cover how stray dogs are “invasive alien species” as well. Why are stray dogs and cats termed as aliens, the extra-terrestrial beings? The domesticated dog and cat species have no native range of their own, meaning they do not occur naturally in the wild. This is especially since humans have controlled their breeding process and even their distribution. In the case humans intentionally or unintentionally introduce the domesticated species into the natural wild spaces, they become “aliens”. Needless to say, they are invasive due to their threats to wildlife and native biodiversity.

To end off, owned FRDCs with outdoor access contributes to about 744,000 of the annual bird mortality rate. I believe that these 744k deaths can easily be prevented if only the owners have kept them in their homes securely, a simple move, to minimise threats to biodiversity.

Since humans introduced these domesticated species into the natural spaces, it’s time we do more to help.

Paws out!

 

References:

Doherty, T. S., Glen, A. S., Nimmo, D. G., Ritchie, E. G., & Dickman, C. R. (2016). Invasive predators and global biodiversity loss. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 113, 11261–11265. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1602480113

Loss, S., Will, T. & Marra, P. The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States. Nat Commun 4, 1396 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms2380

Trouwborst, A, McCormack, PC, Martínez Camacho, E. Domestic cats and their impacts on biodiversity: A blind spot in the application of nature conservation law. People Nat. 2020; 2: 235– 250. https://doi.org/10.1002/pan3.10073

Bridging Rabies to wildlife

Hi everyone!

This week I want to share with you my trip to the coastal farms. Let me show you this video on Animal Veterinary Service’s rabies vaccination exercise for dogs, where Rabies is a zoonotic disease that can spread from animals to humans and other animals.

Vaccination for dogs on floating farms. 

As we traveled to various coastal farms, I pondered why Singapore is worried about the dogs that are offshore and on seemingly isolated coastal farms. I spoke to the veterinarians and found out that dogs are mostly stray dogs and utilised as guard dogs. As mentioned by Dr. Fernandez, the dogs are mostly unsupervised and can get Rabies by swimming to watercraft from other countries (Goh, 2019).  Turns out, dogs can swim very well!

Meaning to say, free-ranging domestic dogs (FRDD) can be the perfect recipe for a disastrous spread of rabies, if not managed well. I can imagine how hard it is to manage and monitor the spread of diseases in countries that has a much greater FRDD population than Singapore.

Other than the fact that rabies extremely fatal to humans, its zoonotic potential extends to wildlife as well. Unfortunately, the endangered species of Ethiopian Wolf (Canis simensis) is not spared from the disease. In 2004 on the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia, there was an outbreak of Rabies resulting in 38 deaths of Ethiopian Wolves. The number may seem small, but their population of 300 is not huge to begin with (Randall, 2005).

“Ethiopian Wolf with rodent prey” by Magnus.

And their cause of death?

The FRDDs!

The period of outbreak coincides with the appearance FRDDs with signs of rabies around their habitat. Though how it transmits from FRDD to the dogs were not discovered, Rabies mainly transmit through bites, but can also spread through open wounds, eyes, and lips via infectious saliva (Rabies, 2020).

So what makes them “Endangered” under the IUCN Red List? The wolves are threatened by habitat loss due to agriculture. With only 197 mature Ethiopian wolves left to produce offspring, it is time to question farming methods like pastoralist grazing, where farmers move their livestock to a new land when the previous land is overgrazed. This farming method not only takes up space, but it also wipes out the habitat of the wolves’ prey, the Giant Mole Rat (Tachyoryctes macrocephalus), which is an endangered species under the IUCN Red List.  Let’s not forget the angry farmers who killed the wolves for murdering their cattle (or were the true culprits the dogs?).

Since the Ethiopian wolves are keystone species, they have direct influences on their food webs. The declining numbers would highly impact the ecosystem and cause a collapse (Keystone Species, n.d.). Moreover, changes to ecosystem cues the chance for FRDDs or any other invasive species to invade it.

Though not intentionally, the FRDDs are undeniably carriers or hotbed for pathogens. Their presence itself will always pose a threat to the whole ecosystem via transmitting diseases to wildlife.

To add on to the never-ending list of problems, there are other diseases like Canine Distemper Virus and others here that FRDDs can be transmitted to wildlife as well. Though there are rabies vaccination programs for FRDDs, in 2008, another rabies outbreak caused 75% of the Ethiopian wolves to die (Reproductive Physiology of Ethiopian wolves, n.d.).

How do we then protect wildlife species?

Reference:

Goh, T., 2019. Anti-Rabies Operation On Dogs On Coastal Farms Keeps Singapore Safe From Virus. [online] The Straits Times. Available at: <https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/anti-rabies-operation-on-dogs-on-coastal-farms-keeps-singapore-safe-from-virus> [Accessed 9 October 2020].

National Geographic Society. n.d. Keystone Species. [online] Available at: <https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/keystone-species/> [Accessed 9 October 2020].

Randall, Dashaun & Williams, Stuart & Kuzmin, Ivan & Rupprecht, Charles & Tallents, Lucy & Tefera Ashenafi, Zelealem & Argaw, Kifle & Shiferaw, Fekadu & Knobel, Darryn & Sillero, Claudio & Laurenson, M. (2005). Rabies in Endangered Ethiopian Wolves. Emerging infectious diseases. 10. 2214-7. 10.3201/eid1012.040080.

World Health Organisation. 2020. Rabies. [online] Available at: <https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/rabies> [Accessed 9 October 2020].

Effects of dog predatory behaviour on the environment

Hi everyone! This week, I want to share an exciting observation I made on the Free-ranging domestic dogs (FRDDs), a.k.a street dogs.

Out of curiosity and love for dogs, I always lookout FRDDs in the field near Tampines IKEA. Nowadays, I see more FRDDs roaming in packs, and the packs are getting bigger! Previously, it was more common for me to spot them in solitary or pairs. And my recent observation? A pack of 8 stray dogs!

Solitary dog in 2016.

FRDD dog pack from Tampines field in 2020

 

I realised that the dog packs appeared after the new establishments of HDB flats in Tampines. I guess that the urbanization involving the use of land space has shrunk the usual natural spaces these FRDDs can roam, creating more chances to encounter one another and have greater chances to form packs.

This made me wonder, knowing that FRDDs know how to form packs, this surely would have more impacts on the environment. When I was young, I was always in denial when my father told me about how the village dogs (unowned FRDD) would team up to hunt for birds. I mean, aren’t they fed enough? Well, turns out I was wrong. According to Bonanni & Cafazzo (2014), FRDDs prefer to hunt cooperatively in a pack than solitarily, especially in places with suitable prey and fewer food resources by humans. I was curious about what types of prey FRDDs would predate on and how this predatory behaviour contributes to loss of biodiversity, so I did some research to find out more!

In India, FRDD packs compete with the Indian Wolf (Canis lupus pallipes) for the Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra). On top of that, Jhala & Giles (1991) reported that the FRDDs killed the Antilope fawns. This worries me as they even attack young fawns, would there be enough surviving offspring to maintain their species? Moreover, the Indian Wolf species are listed as “Endangered” under the Wildlife Protection Act, with an estimate of only 3000 of them left. The competition with FRDD is an energetically costly behaviour, which I feel can affect the wolf’s daily activities and behaviour (Too tired to mate perhaps?).

Even though Blackbucks are classified “Least concerned” under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of threatened species, I do feel that the predation of any wildlife species by the FRDDs can pose a significant threat to the environment.

Let us look at this food web I made to better illustrate the significance of the FRDD predation and how interconnected food chains are in the forest ecosystem of India.

From this, we can see that due to the competition with FRDD for Blackbuck, the Indian wolves may resort to consuming more of other prey within their diet, for example, the Indian Hares (Lepus nigricollis). Unfortunately, the Indian Hares are also part of the food chain for the Indian leopard, which is classified as “Vulnerable” under the IUCN Red List, meaning the leopards face high extinction rates in the wild without interventions. The Indian leopard would tend to consume other prey within its diet, which are part of other food chains. Ultimately, this affects the entire ecosystem, where a change in the population numbers in one trophic level can cause a cascade effect, a chain of events that disrupt a balanced ecosystem of the environment, leading to loss of biodiversity of wildlife.

For my next post, let’s see how free-ranging domestic cats impact the environment!

Paws out!

References:

Bonanni, R and Cafazzo, S. (2014). The Social Organisation of a Population of Free-Ranging Dogs in a Suburban Area of Rome: A Reassessment of the Effects of Domestication on Dogs’ Behaviour. 10.1016/B978-0-12-407818-5.00003-6.

Hughes, J. and Macdonald, D. (2013). A review of the interactions between free-roaming domestic dogs and wildlife. Biological Conservation, 157, pp.341-351.

Jhala, Y. and Giles, R. (1993). The status and conservation of the wolf in Gujarat and Rajasthan, India. Biological Conservation, 63(3), p.276.

Wolf-dog Hybrid !?

Hello friends! I have always been fascinated by how the dogs (Canis lupis familaris) are subspecies from wolves (Canis lupus)! A great way to imagine I am hugging a wolf will be hugging a Siberian Husky, a breed of Canis lupis familaris, but there’s a big difference between the two. The main difference between these two canids is that Canis lupis familaris underwent the domestication process, where Canis lupus was the first species to be domesticated by humans due to their positive socialization (Anderson, 2018). Socialization is a process for a maturing animal to learn and interact with humans.

Let us find out the differences between these categories together!

Assign options A,B and C to the picture you think suits best:  

A. Domestic dog

B. Free-ranging domestic dog

C. Feral dog

“Feral dogs in Hong Kong” by sumesh2007 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

Here are the answers!

Domestic DogDomestic dog

Adapted the “Feral dogs in Hong Kong” by sumesh2007 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Stray dogs which are going to be fed by humans

Was it hard to differentiate between feral and free-ranging domestic dogs (FRDD)? It was confusing to me before I studied it. Some of the feral dogs do look like FRDD, like these feral dogs in Palestine.

“Feral dogs in Palestine” by بدارين is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

In Singapore, we commonly term the FRDDs as “stray/street dogs’’. The FRDDs can be owned or unowned: The unowned FRDDs are free to roam around, typically living close to human homes and are not controlled by humans (Anderson, 2018). The FRDDs can find food and shelter intentionally or non-intentionally provided by humans. Also, FRDDs can be owned dogs, meaning the owners allow them to roam around on various times of the day without supervision (Coppinger & Coppinger, 2001).

Similarly, feral dogs have gone through the domestication process. The main distinguishing factor of feral dogs from FRDD is that feral dogs avoid humans and have no socialization. They live away from humans without food and shelter support. However, feral dogs are not considered wild animals as have gone through domestication and have the genetic composition for domesticated dogs (Ádám Miklósi, 2015).

Despite the evolution of dogs from wolves, these two candids are finding their way back together via hybridization in recent years. It is of environmental concern as the hybridization of FRDD and wolves can change the genetic integrity of the wolves, which could potentially threaten the fitness of wolves. It was reported that 6 wolf-dog hybrids were found in Estonia and 2 wolf-dog hybrids were found in Latvia (Kadzidlowo Hindrikson, Ma¨nnil, Ozolins, Krzywinski, Saarma, 2012).  A wolf-dog hybrid of male polish spaniel (FRDD, abandoned or free roaming) and female gray wolf (wild animal) was found in Poland, at Wildlife Park (Kadzidlowo Hindrikson et al., 2012).

“First-generation (F1) wolf-dog hybrid from Wildlife Park Kadzidlowo, Poland” by Andrzej Krzywinski is licensed under CC BY 3.0

To conserve the wolf population, wolf hunting should be discouraged and prohibited to prevent the lowering of wolf numbers. With smaller wolf populations, the impacts on hybridization between FRDDs and wolves are amplified, threatening the conservation of wolves, especially if the fitness of subsequent wolf offspring are affected (Kadzidlowo Hindrikson et al., 2012).

I’ll probably get to hug a hybrid wolf soon… Hopefully not since it would mean the wolf species are threatened.

Paws out!

References:

Anderson, E. N. (2018). The first domestication: How wolves and humans coevolved. By Raymond Pierotti and Brandy R. Fogg. 2017. Yale University Press, New Haven. 326 pp. Ethnobiology Letters, 9(2), 247-249. doi:10.14237/ebl.9.2.2018.1379

Coppinger, R., Coppinger, L. (2001). Dogs: a new understanding of canine origin, behavior and evolution. Chicago University Press, Chicago, IL.

Hindrikson, M., Ma¨nnil, P., Ozolins, J., Krzywinski, A., Saarma, U. (2012). Bucking the Trend in Wolf-Dog Hybridization: First Evidence from Europe of Hybridization between Female Dogs and Male Wolves. PLoS ONE 7(10): e46465. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046465

Miklósi, A. (2015;2014;). Dog behaviour, evolution, and cognition (Second ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199646661.001.0001

What is domestication?

“Domestication is seen as a process in which humans deliberately and with forethought assume control over the domesticate’s movement, feeding, protection, distribution, and above all, it’s breeding – directed at achieving specific identified goals’’ – Zeder (2012).

The domestication of animals began over 11000 years ago, with different portrayals of the relationship between Homo sapiens and the animal in definitions (Zeder, 2012). The above-quoted definition illustrates the human ruling over the animal in the relationship. Alternatively, it is seen as a symbiotic relationship, where both humans and the domesticated species both mutually benefit (O’connor, 1997).

As I see it, domestication of animals as companion pets is closely associated with “Survival of the cutest” as expressed by my senior Lam Jia Jun in his blog, with a focus on flagship species (Lam, 2019). I feel that his concept could also be extended to domesticated companion animals, where it seems to me that these animals are protected by humans and may not face the threat of extinction. Although a subjective statement, the commonly domesticated companion animals including cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, etc., are mostly aesthetically appealing and adorable, which is one of the reasons why humans are the only species with pets (Hogenboom, 2015).

Image of a cute domestic cat

In contrast, the domestication of animals for agriculture portrays the concept I came up with – ‘’Survival of the tameable’’, meaning the animals do not pose a danger and are not afraid of humans. Unfortunately, being tameable has placed the domesticated animals, including the chicken, pig, cattle, etc., in an unshakeable fate to survive and become food for humans. Animal domestication for agriculture has undeniably become a challenging responsibility for humanity to shoulder, where the welfare of animals for agriculture feels like a heavy weight on me.

Given my attempts in becoming vegetarian, I understand the difficulty in assuaging the demand by humans for farm animals as food.  The least I hope for is an improvement in the welfare of farmed animals, such as in free-ranging farms where the animals have the freedom to access fields and sources for their own food. But what does free-ranging actually mean in the farm industries?

Video retrieved from PETA’s Youtube channel

This video highlights how I should not take “labels” as it is and the stark differences in standards of free-ranging in various farm industries (Riveria, 2017)

The dawn of the human-livestock relationship has consequently led to increasing land-use for agriculture purposes to meet the demand for meat consumption. It was reported by Bruinsma & Alexandratos (2011) that 1.2million km2 of land is required for agricultural purposes till 2030. Unfortunately, agricultural land-use would threaten the environment including its biodiversity and the climate (Zabel, Putzenlechner & Mauser 2014). In my view, the domestication of animals for agriculture feels wrong to the farm animals and the environment. It feels wrong to mankind as well, where I resonate with Jared Diamond’s article on agriculture being ‘’The worst mistake in the history of human race’’ (Diamond, 1999).

What about my opinions on the domestication of animals as companions? – Till my next post!

Paws out!

 

<<Additional inputs as of 24/9/2020>>

Hi everyone. I would like to point out how some of the information above are my opinions that are admittedly inaccurate. With the help and the knowledge from Dr Coleman, I can now better explain them.

For instance, I would like to highlight how “cuteness” is not considered a factor to which how the dog species were domesticated. They were domesticated for herding, guarding and and even hunting – you can find out more here.

  1. Also, I left out a pretty important information –  birds are wild animalswild animals, only some species are considered pets.

 

References:

Alexandratos, N., & Bruinsma, J. (2012). World agriculture towards 2030/2050: the 2012 revision. ESA Working Paper No 12-03. Rome: FAO.

Diamond, J. (1999, May 1). The worst mistake in the history of the human race. Discover Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.discovermagazine.com/planet-earth/the-worst-mistake-in-the-history-of-the-human-race

Hogenboom, M. (2015) Why do we love our pets so much? Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150530-why-do-we-love-our-pets-so-much

Lam, J. (2019, September 13). Survival of the cutest [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://blog.nus.edu.sg/unnaturalselection/2019/09/13/survival-of-the-cutest/

O’Connor, T. (1997). Working at relationships: Another look at animal domestication. Antiquity, 71(271), 149-156. doi:10.1017/S0003598X00084635

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. (2018, February 27). Chickens Crammed Inside Shed on ‘Free-Range’ Farm. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/HXlfn4uIDm8

Riveria, L. (2016, June 4). Unmasking the truth behind food labelling in the chicken industry. Independent [United Kingdom]. Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/supermarket-chicken-labels-truth-free-range-battery-treatment-organic-a7751536.html

Zabel, F., Putzenlechner, B., & Mauser, W. (2014). Global agricultural land resources–a high resolution suitability evaluation and its perspectives until 2100 under climate change conditions. PloS one, 9(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0107522

Zeder, A. (2012). Domestication of animals. Journal of Anthropological Research, 68(2), 161-190. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.com/stable/23264664

Paws & The Environment

Hello everyone! I am Rachel Ong, freshmen embarking on Bachelor of Environmental Studies (BES) at the National University of Singapore (NUS). I am stuck in love with animals & the natural environment, the 2 most fragile things in the world to me. My feelings of Biophilia – A love for the natural world, was fuelled by the exploration of nature reserves in Singapore and documentaries on National Geographic.

One of my baby steps in trying to “save the animals” was joining an emergency animal hospital as a veterinary nurse. It is an emotional job where I felt like walking on a thin line of life and death. Nevertheless, I had a sense of fulfilment in lessening the pain of animals and enjoyed the job. However, there’s this hidden calling in me that I’m not ‘’saving the animals” enough, specifically, the efforts I make are not impactful enough to help a larger number and species of animals. Well, this explains why I embarked BES in NUS!

My young mind was filled with stories of my father’s childhood “Kampong Village” in Singapore where his family had a farm with domestic animals like chickens, pigs, and ducks. He shares his memories of him sleeping with the ducks and helping mother pigs deliver piglets, meanwhile I would be in envy of those experiences. He shared his friendship with the village dogs which guarded the village and they were always fed by the whole village. He shared his sadness on how some days, the village dogs ventured into the forest and never came back…

What do you think happened to the village dogs? 

For me, it triggered a sense of loss and made me wonder – “Where did the dogs go?”, “Are they lost?” and “Can they survive out there?”. I started questioning the domestication of animals, on how it impacted the lives of the animals and eventually discovered the impacts of the stray dogs and cats, termed as “free-ranging domesticated animals (FRDA)” on the environment – “Oops my father may have contributed to this environmental impact?’’ came to my mind.

Upon reading the news about the Australia government target of culling 2million feral cats by 2020 [1], I naturally got upset over it but managed to find answers to give me closure to these negative feelings.

Join me on my journey in discovering the impacts of FRDA on the environment, with a focus on other parts of the world. As someone who loves domesticated animals, wildlife, and nature (I always get scolded for being a hypocrite for loving these), I will be sharing my experiences in adjusting my emotions in response to the culling of animals. I will highlight the need for wildlife conservation methods to be reconsidered in the face of urban expansion. Finally, I will discuss the management of FRDA and the possibility of applying compassionate conservation to FRDA.

Food for thought by the end of the blog: Are the environmental impacts by FRDA accelerated by anthropogenic factors (e.g urbanisation)?

 

References:

[1] Australia is deadly serious about killing millions of cats (2019, April 25). The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/25/magazine/australia-cat-killing.html