Tuesday, February 17, 2004

"Big Bird stays in Ubin"

Big Bird stays in Ubin
The Straits Times, 17 February 2004

BIG BIRD STAYS ON UBIN: Eighteen-month-old Lim Jie En tries to feed the family's pet ostrich at the home of his great-grandfather, Pulau Ubin village head Lim Chye Joo.

The bird was given to the family a few months ago and has been allowed to stay on the island, unlike most of the chickens, ducks and geese there which were removed by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) recently to minimise the risk of backyard poultry getting bird

The AVA says most ostriches are not endangered and can be kept as pets if they are put in confined enclosures, have enough space to move about freely and do not pose a nuisance to the neighbours.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

"Ubin residents bid their birds farewell"

Ubin residents bid their birds farewell
By Nora Seah
The Straits Times, 7 February 2004

FOR the past 23 years, Pulau Ubin farmer Tan Long Jee, 62, has been rearing chickens. That ended yesterday. Next week, he will head to the mainland to look for work for the first time.

The career switch became necessary after the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) yesterday cleared the island of most of its remaining chickens, ducks and geese, as a precaution to keep out the bird flu.

The farms and residents had been given until yesterday to sell off 728 birds. The AVA and the Poultry Merchants' Association bought 544 birds, while the rest were sold to the public over the last few days.

Although Ubin residents can keep 10 birds each as pets, Mr Tan, who lives on the island with his wife, will still need to look for a new job.

Speaking in Mandarin, he said: 'I've been staying here since 1981 and have kept chickens since then, but now I'll have to look for other work, like becoming a cleaner at a hawker centre.'

His wife, Madam Kuek Ah Soy, 58, agreed: 'We are old and uneducated, so we can take up only jobs like dish-washing or serving coffee in coffee shops.'

Although unhappy, most of the residents and farmers accepted the need to give up the birds after AVA officials and members of the association went door to door explaining the urgency.

'We are just glad that it has not been necessary for us to confiscate any birds,' said Mr Melvin Tan, a senior corporate communications executive from AVA.

It helped that many birds were bought by visitors to the island over the last few days. Said farmer Mr Tan: 'We have no choice but to sell our chickens as this is government policy but, thanks to the publicity, I've already managed to sell about 210 chickens to the public. I'm just happy that I was able to recoup my losses.'

It took a lot more persuasion to get Madam Ang Siew Eng, 76, to part with the birds she has been rearing for more than 30 years.

Her six children - including her youngest son, Mr Chua Peng Hong, 34, who flew back from working in Thailand - had to make the boat ride across to Ubin before she finally relented and agreed to sell more than 100 birds.

Mr Chua said: 'We were worried that she would feel upset about losing her chickens after all the hard work she has put in. But we told her that we had to cooperate with the Government.'

Said Madam Ang wistfully as all but 10 birds were taken away: 'I'll just have to get used to it. At least I'm still allowed to keep some chickens.'

Thursday, February 05, 2004

"Pulau Ubin to be cleared of all Poultry"

Pulau Ubin to be cleared of all Poultry
The Straits Times, 5 February 2004

POULTRY will be removed from all farms and residences in Pulau Ubin by tomorrow to reduce the risk of bird flu affecting Singapore, said the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) yesterday.

AVA had earlier offered to buy poultry from farms and households for between $2 and $10 each.

The Poultry Merchants' Association also met farmers and residents in Pulau Ubin yesterday to purchase their poultry. AVA said that it will remove any remaining stock by tomorrow, and the farming of poultry on the island will be
prohibited untill further notice.

However, farms and residents in Pulau Ubin will be able to keep a few of their existing poultry as pets, but they will have to be caged. There will be penalties for violating this rule.

About 600-700 poultry are kept in Pulau Ubin in four farms and 18 households. Backyard farms in Pulau Ubin do not have proper biosecurity measures in place, and thus there is a risk that poultry might become infected with bird flu through contact with infected wild birds.

It is not cost-effective to biosecure the four farms as installing items such as disinfection tape and fencing will be expensive.

AVA's CEO Ngiam Tong Tau said that these measures were implemented after feedback from countries - including Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia - showed that avian flu infections had spread mainly through backyard farms in those countries.

He added that Singapore is still free of bird flu, and the measures are to minimise risk to people in Pulau Ubin.

"Ubin residents must sell fowls by tomorrow"

Ubin residents must sell fowls by tomorrow
By Goh Chin Lian
The Straits Times, 5 February 2004

PULAU Ubin farmers and residents have been given until tomorrow to sell off all their 600 to 700 fowls.

If they want, they can keep fewer than 10 birds as pets, provided the animals are caged. Unsold chickens, geese and ducks will be confiscated and slaughtered and the meat donated to charities, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said at a press conference yesterday.

Although Singapore is free from bird flu, experience from Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia showed that 'the disease always begins with a small backyard farm' which had no proper safeguards, said AVA chief executive officer Ngiam
Tong Tau.

On Ubin, there are four farms licensed to rear poultry and grow vegetables and 18 households which let their birds roam freely.

The AVA does not think they can impose the same strict safeguards as the big poultry farms on the mainland in the short term.

But instead of rounding up the birds and putting them down, the AVA has offered to buy them.

So has the Poultry Merchants' Association, whose members will end up eating the meat. Association secretary Chiew Kian Huat said it was buying the chickens at between $5 and $10 each, ducks at $20 and geese at $50 or more.

After spending about five hours explaining in Mandarin, Teochew and Cantonese to residents why the birds had to go, Mr Chiew said they managed to secure pledges for more than 100 chickens and 30 ducks. They plan to approach the remaining farms and households today.

Mr Lim Chor Gan, 60, who agreed to sell the 30 chickens he reared for eggs, said in Mandarin: 'We'll have to buy eggs from the provision shop at the jetty.

'It'll also be hard to have a meal of kampung chicken.' Mr Lim has lived all his life on the island.

'Perhaps we'll get to rear chickens again in the future.'

Till then, Dr Ngiam suggested: 'We'll help them produce better vegetables.'

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.