shutterstock_236759257THE new experiment to control the pigeon population in Singapore should be conducted with care, to make sure that only the targeted species – pigeons – are affected, and not other bird species and stray animals.

That was the response from two civil groups we spoke to when we asked them about Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore’s (AVA) newest pilot – to control the pigeon population in Singapore by feeding them a a corn-based feed containing a drug, nicarbazin, which either stops the female pigeons from producing eggs or causes them to lay eggs that don’t hatch.

Both civil groups – Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals (SPCA) and the Nature Society Singapore (NSS) – called the trial a good move, but added that it should be conducted with care.

The trial, which started on Oct 13, is currently being limited to a field outside the Masjid Haji Muhammad Salleh mosque in Palmer Road, near Shenton Way. The number of pigeons outside the mosque has doubled over the last two years – there are now over 400 pigeons. It would take about a year to see a drop in the pigeon population, and if the trial is successful, the method will be tried out in other parts of Singapore.

When tested in Italy, the method was found to reduce the pigeon population in the test area by 30 per cent to 40 per cent over four years.

In the past year alone, there have been 3,400 pigeon-related complaints – 36 per cent more than the 2,500 complaints that AVA has received in 2014. Most of the complaints are about hygiene, environmental issues resulting from their droppings, and concerns over diseases and people feeding them.

A larger picture shows that feedback on all birds have also been on the rise – there were 6,100 bird-related complaints this year. This is a 38.6 per cent increase from the 4,400 bird-related complaints submitted to AVA in 2013.

Ms Corinne Fong, executive director of SPCA, said that SPCA has always advocated sterilisation for stray cats and dogs. “If AVA is embarking on this with birds – controlling the population by sterilising them and not culling them, that would be fantastic,” she said.

She also added that SPCA has had various complaints about the pigeon population in Singapore, but since it doesn’t have the capacity to deal with birds, the complaints are generally referred to NEA. However, she added that those carrying out the trial would have to be careful of other stray animals.

“The contractors for AVA would have to be mindful that there are community cats and dogs, and children for that matter,” she said. “They must be observant of other stray animals – if any – that are going around picking the food.”

The pigeon feed will not harm other animals or humans if consumed accidentally in small doses. However, if consumed in large doses, it can be toxic – it would take 40kg of the feed to see toxic effects in dogs and cats, and 60kg for a child.

Mr Wing Chong, chairman of the Bird Group – which is a special interest group of the Nature Society (Singapore), said that the execution of the trial would have to be well controlled.

“The location and the manner of the pigeon feed should be carefully selected, so that only the targeted bird species should be affected,” he said. For example, a trained personnel should be present when the pigeons are being fed, and they should be careful that no excess drugged feed should be left behind. “The feed should also not be administered near water, or under rain, to prevent uncontrolled spread of the drug,” he added.

Currently, five mosque volunteers will be in charge of feeding the drugged feed to the pigeons. The question is: Should we have more trained personnel handling the feeding, since it might have adverse effects on other birds if ingested?

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