Monday, February 02, 2004

"Pulau Ubin fowls to be put down"

Pulau Ubin fowls to be put down
By Irena Jasoeb
The Straits Times, 2 February 2004

CHICKENS, geese and even turkeys roam free on Pulau Ubin.
But to keep them from mingling with wild birds that may carry the bird flu virus, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) plans to buy the poultry from all four of Pulau Ubin's farms and 'put them down'.

AVA spokesman Goh Shih Yong said: 'We cannot bring these chickens back and introduce them into the other poultry farms on the main island, and we don't have a farm to keep them in.'

Singapore, he emphasised, does not have the bird flu. 'The risk in Singapore now is very low and we just want to make it lower,' he added.

The farmers will be paid a 'fair and reasonable market price'.
Pulau Ubin's four farms are licensed for mixed farming. Ducks and geese are also reared alongside a total of about 250 chickens.

The big poultry farms in Singapore have to be bio-secure. This means they must be 'bird-proofed' to prevent wild birds from mingling with farmed poultry.

Workers have to don protective gear when handling birds, visitors are not allowed and vehicles going into the farms must have their wheels hosed down with disinfectant to ensure no faecal matter is left on them.

The AVA assessed Pulau Ubin's farms and concluded they could not be made bio-secure, so it has decided to buy the poultry instead. It is discussing the price with farmers and details are expected to be settled this week.

Some of the island's 50 or so residents also keep pet chickens, and the AVA is advising that they be caged to prevent contact with wild birds.

Their owners can also hand over these birds to the AVA by calling its Centre for Animal Welfare and Control on 1800-476-1600.

But some islanders think they should be paid for these chickens too. One woman, who gave her name as Madam Chen, said it cost her 'a few hundred dollars' a month to feed her seven pet chickens.

'So if the Government wants, they can take them, but they must pay me,' she said.

Another villager, who rears chickens, geese and a turkey on her compound, became agitated when asked about her plans. 'No, no, I'm not taking any precautions. Even if the bird flu comes and we all die, never mind lah!' she said.

Village chief Lim Chye Joo, 99, said that every other family on the island rears some poultry for eggs and also to eat.

News of the AVA's plan to buy and put down Pulau Ubin's chickens has left some restaurant owners in a quandary.

Sin Lam Huat Coffee Shop was still selling kampung chicken yesterday. Owner Goh Lam Heng said his customers usually ask for kampung chicken. He may sell as many as 10 at weekends, he said. 'If I don't offer kampung chicken, my customers will not need to come to Pulau Ubin,' he said.

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