A move that has been a long time coming: Wildlife experts welcome formation of revamped NParks

A move that has been a long time coming: Wildlife experts welcome formation of revamped NParks

Otters Singapore
A family of otters in Singapore. (Photo: Facebook/OtterWatch/Tan Yong Lin)

SINGAPORE: Having a single agency - the National Parks Board (NParks) - take the lead in addressing wildlife-related concerns is a step in the right direction, local experts said, adding that the move has been a long time coming.

The board will take on the role from Apr 1 2019, as part of the government's reorganisation of food, plant health and animal management functions announced on Thursday (Jul 26). 

All non-food plant and animal-related functions of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) will be transferred to NParks from April next year, with a new statutory board taking over food safety and security functions currently overseen by three agencies. With that, AVA will be disbanded.

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Local wildlife experts told Channel NewsAsia that the move will allow for the better pooling of resources as NParks seeks to conserve Singapore's natural heritage.

"I welcome the news," said veteran wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai. "For the longest time, we have been worried that the AVA can't cope. They are stretched too thin and are unable to prioritise certain things which we feel are important."

"It is important to know that we're separating managing wildlife from management of food-related issues," he added. "Putting the two together in the past was a bit up in the air ... We cannot have too many agencies spoiling the broth. This move will allow people to work closer together to find solutions."

Tackling issues such as the illegal wildlife trade, and finding a solution for animal-human "conflict" are issues that the new-look NParks should seek to address, added Mr Rajathurai.

BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

Dr Shawn Lum, president of Nature Society (Singapore) (NSS), hailed the move as one which will bring together the best of both worlds.

"I'm very encouraged by this. It's quite similar to what some have been requesting for years - but it's even better now that it's under one agency," said Dr Lum. 

"I think at every level our response to wildlife-related issues will be now streamlined. We take the best of AVA's animal expertise and bring that together with the NParks' experience on the ground and in the field, and what we could get is something even better than the sum of two groups previously.

"The AVA are very committed to these issues, and they have very good people who are doing a good job, but I think now that it is under a single agency, you can have a shared sort of objective and the response can come from one agency instead of two, so there would be better coordination."

This sentiment was echoed by chief executive officer of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Singapore Elaine Tan, who stressed the need for NParks to tackle the loss of biodiversity.

"It is a welcomed move that NParks, with its comprehensive knowledge on conservation, will take the lead on biodiversity issues including wildlife conflict, illegal wildlife trade, and the protection and conservation of precious natural resources," she added.

But for the NParks to function optimally, Dr Lum of NSS believes that the agency has to be given more financial support. This could allow them to designate more resources to track wildlife, delegate more manpower to monitor the illegal wildlife trade and even draw up more programmes to encourage more young people to go into conservation policy, he added.

"If we invested just a little bit more in some key human resources, we could truly realise the potential of this new arrangement. It's already very good but it could be even better."

Source: CNA/mt(ms)

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