SINGAPORE: Free-roaming chickens in Pasir Ris were culled earlier this year to better manage the bird flu risk, Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon said in Parliament on Tuesday (Apr 4).
The culling was done in January, around the same time that the the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) put down 24 chickens which had been roaming freely around Thomson View and Sin Ming Avenue.
Following feedback from residents on the presence of significant numbers of free-roaming chickens in Sungei Api Api, the AVA did a check and found more than 100 chickens in the area, Dr Koh said.
He was responding to questions on the Pasir Ris culling from Member of Parliament (MP) for Nee Soon GRC Louis Ng. Mr Ng asked how many residents complained about the free-ranging chickens in the last year and how many were culled.
“AVA had taken actions to remove some of the free-roaming chickens there to better manage the bird flu risk,” Dr Koh said.
While the AVA had previously said that it said it was "highly unlikely" the culled birds were the red junglefowl, an endangered species in Singapore, Mr Ng, who is also the founder of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), said that they are indeed the same birds.
In response, Dr Koh noted a recent bird flu outbreak “close to home” in Kelantan, Malaysia, which resulted in authorities there culling more than 56,000 chickens. He said the AVA takes a “risk-based approach” in its culling decisions.
To Mr Ng’s question on whether AVA will consider vaccinating all free-ranging chickens against bird flu instead of culling them, Dr Koh said that the vaccination of free-roaming chickens alone may not be an effective solution to manage the bird flu risk.
“There are many bird flu strains and the virus is known to mutate. While bird flu vaccinations can provide partial protection against certain strains, the vaccinated chickens can still be infected by other strains,” he said.
He added that AVA aims to enhance its management of animal populations, including free-roaming chickens, and will involve stakeholders like academics, wildlife experts, the community, and animal welfare groups in exploring various approaches and solutions.
The culling of the chickens at Sin Ming had sparked an outcry. Authorities initially said they received 20 complaints over the chickens, largely about noise, but the director-general of the AVA later clarified that the birds were culled due to bird flu concerns.
An AVA spokesperson also stated that the chickens were humanely euthanised as relocation options are not available in land-scarce Singapore.