In last week’s lecture, we learnt about urban biodiversity and how the abiotic urban environments affect some species. The alteration of bird and frog calls in frequency, timing and amplitude makes them susceptible to other threats which include higher risk of predation. This reminded me of the latest “human-wildlife conflict” in Singapore: Free-roaming chickens vs. Sin Ming Residents.
The free-roaming chickens were being culled after the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) received 20 complaints from the residents (Toh, 2017)- and other reasons such as threat to public health, and the endangered native Red Junglefowl (Tan, 2017). Many debated that the culling of chickens was not clearly justified and actions were taken without much investigation (Toh, 2017). Several people also suggested that the chickens were in fact the Red Junglefowl and that the authorities were simply covering up (Koh, 2017). NParks and AVA refuted back by stating that the Red Junglefowls are KNOWN to occur only in Pulau Ubin and the Western Catchment area and that the differences between a common chicken and the Junglefowl (Tan, 2017).
However….. there was a footage that was used as evidence to prove that the chickens were the Red Junglefowl:
Unfortunately, nothing can be done now to save the chickens. The complaints were likely to be the sentiments of a minority of the residents but we can indeed see how efficient the government agencies were at addressing the complaints. I was reminded of this news as I was considering the likelihood of residents’ complaining the bird and frog species which alter their calls in order to adapt to urban environment. Should the consequences of alteration of calls include human removal then? (This might sound silly to you but I am just considering the possibility of it happening). However, the fact that we humans decide the survival of the animals with just a complaint shows how powerful we are as a driver in shaping the urban wildlife community. Additionally, the authorities should not simply assumed that the Red Junglefowl occur only in several areas. Sin Ming is very near to the Catchment. There is indeed a possibility that the chickens were the Red Junglefowl! More investigation is needed when addressing such complaints about the animals and the welfare of the animals should be of equal priority. If the chickens were indeed the endangered species, can we trust the authorities in fostering and safeguard urban biodiversity?
In my opinion, the culling of the free-roaming chickens simply promotes the residents’ intolerance to animals’ presence in the urban area. This will perhaps have implications on the fostering urban wildlife. The free-roaming chickens had lived in the area for decades but were still culled. What can we expect as encroachment to nature areas increase which increases the chances of people encountering more unusual wildlife??
The presence of the free-roaming chickens could or should be used as a material to educate the public of the way to co-exist with urban animals. The public should be guided to accept the presence of urban wildlife. This is especially so when Singapore is an urban jungle and many of us do not frequently connect and interact with nature. Although many were against of the culling, many suggested relocating the chickens instead. This shows that people who are in favour of protecting the wildlife may not necessary be open to sharing spaces with them. This is a huge obstacle in urban biodiversity conservation.
Khew, C. (2017, February 3). Chicken culling issue raises need for more awareness. Asiaone. Retrieved from: http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapore/chicken-culling-issue-raises-need-more-awareness
Koh, W.T. (2017, February 3). Common chickens or red junglefowl. The Middle Ground. Retrieved from: http://themiddleground.sg/2017/02/03/common-chicken-or-red-junglefowl/
Tan, A. (2017, February 2). Free-ranging chickens may be culled. The Straits Times.
Retrieved from: http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/environment/free-ranging-chickens-may-be-culled
Toh, E.M. (2017, February 1). ‘Noisy chickens’ in Sin Ming Avenue put down after residents’ complaints. Retrieved from: http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/noisy-chickens-sin-ming-avenue-put-down-after-residents-complaints