Saturday, May 22, 2010

More people releasing animals into wild

More people releasing animals into wild

Released creatures often die or disrupt ecological system here: NParks
Grace Chua Straits Times 21 May 10;

MORE people are releasing animals into the wild, reversing a downward trend.

The number of them caught trying to do so in the parks and reserves here - in a free fall from the 44 cases in 2004 to just one in 2007 - saw an uptick with three cases in 2008.

Last year, the figure climbed to 10 - either people tired of their pets or those setting free animals in religious rites.

The 150 animals on the brink of being released last year included domesticated pets like rabbits, dogs and cats, as well as turtles and birds.

The National Parks Board (NParks) and water agency PUB, hardly thrilled with this trend, have beefed up their 'Operation No Release' squad, which patrols the parks, reserves, waterways and the coast and advises those releasing animals against doing so.

These volunteers number more than 250, more than triple the number since the programme began in 2004.

This year alone, bags of crickets, goldfish, guppies and swordtail fish have been found in the MacRitchie Reservoir Park.

NParks, which said it does not know why the numbers are on the up again, has so far not prosecuted anyone for the practice.

Its Central Nature Reserve assistant director Sharon Chan said nine in 10 released animals die within a day, while more aggressive animals such as the white-crested laughing thrush can drive out native species to claim turf.

The thrush species has now spread to the Southern Ridges and Bukit Batok Nature Park, and has even reached the edge of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

Some people do not even release animals into the right habitat. Freshwater soft-shell turtles are known to have been released into the sea.

Even where the habitat is right, the ecosystem may not be able to sustain so many animals, said National University of Singapore biologist Chou Loke Ming, in reference to a group releasing 10 tonnes of cockles, mussels and other shellfish into the sea off Pulau Ubin this year.

Shellfish will not live long when piled on top of one another, he said.

The volunteers in Operation No Release will have their work cut out for them next weekend, when Buddhists set free animals in observance of Vesak Day, and this weekend too, in the run-up to it.

Already, Buddhist temples and groups here have discouraged the practice.

The Buddhist Fellowship's spiritual patron Ajahn Brahm said: 'Before one releases a captive animal, one must use one's wisdom and reflect whether one is doing more harm than good.

'If more harm is being done, such as sending that animal to a certain death or destroying the local habitat, then releasing the animal is clearly bad karma. It should not be done. Compassion without wisdom can do more harm than good.'

Secondary school students are also doing their bit to discourage the practice, and yesterday, 30 pupils from Fuhua and Zhonghua primary schools and enrichment centre Neumind attended a workshop to learn why releasing animals harms the environment.

RGS students pitch in to spread the message
Straits Times 21 May 10;

A GROUP of students from Raffles Girls' School (Secondary) will be among adult volunteers stationed in the nature reserves to discourage people from releasing animals.

This year, the eight girls have already held public expeditions, conducted nature walks through MacRitchie Reservoir and visited primary schools to spread the message.

They are working with the National Parks Board (NParks) to put up signs and exhibits in nature areas to explain the fate of released animals, and have also recruited about 50 of their schoolmates to join in this month's volunteer campaign by NParks to discourage animal release.

The RGS project, called AnimaX Release, received a $1,500 grant last September from the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) to grow in scope.

The project had its beginnings last year as a school research project, said team leader Deborah Tang, 16. But research, making posters and leading nature walks for the project took up more of the girls' time than expected, and it evolved into a two-hour-a-week extracurricular activity.

She said some girls in the group had previously released unwanted pets into the wild, not knowing then that it was illegal, could threaten the balance of nature and also harm the released animals.

RGS team member Stephanie Siow, 16, recalls releasing hamsters into forested areas and aquarium fish into drains as a child.

'I really thought the hamsters would be happy in the wild,' she said, with remorse.

From a survey of 200 people at MacRitchie Reservoir, the girls found out they were not alone in thinking this way: More than a third of people polled also believed it was all right to release animals into the wild.

AnimaX Release is one of four projects Acres is supporting. The others are for projects on insanitary dog farms called 'puppy mills', a cat care and sterilisation programme and one that raises awareness of the continuing illegal trade of wildlife.

Acres' executive director Louis Ng said: 'This is not just a conservation issue, since most of the animals released are non-native species, but also one of animal welfare, because most of the animals released are unable to survive in the wild.'


Related links
Help stop cruel 'Animal Liberation' on wild shores of singapore.