Reflections – BQLive: Wildlife Educator

When I was really young, I used to have an elderly neighbour who used to feed pigeons every evening. My neighbours and family disliked her for this very reason. They felt that she was luring pigeons in to our neighbourhood, causing the surroundings to be more and more dirty and unhygienic. After she passed on, the issue did not persist long, but I always wondered how my family and neighbours could have dealt with this issue better. I joined this session to try to understand how we can improve in our approach to talk to repeated bird feeders better to try to encourage and educate them on the implications of pigeon feeding, while learning more about wildlife in Singapore in general.

Ten minutes into the session, I learnt that Javan Mynah lay blue eggs and Malayan Water Monitors have blue tongue (and they like busking in the sun). It was really interesting because I have seen a Malayan Water Monitor before, but I never noticed such a distinctive feature it possess. It reminded me to not just see, but to be observant.

I also learnt that instead of using the phrase “human-wildlife conflict”, which has a negative connotation to it, using the phrase “human-wildlife interaction” is more appropriate and neutral.

There are many factors that contribute to a rising population of pigeons in an urban location. Some contributing factors are:

  • High-rise littering. Residents who participate in high-rise littering create an artificial source of food for the birds.
  • Improper disposal of food waste at hawker center. When food is left on the tables and in the sight of the birds for a prolonged period of time, birds will be drawn towards an easy source of food in numbers.
  • Pigeon feeding. Feeding will discourage birds from hunting and obtaining food in natural ways.

It is also very interesting to know how COVID-19 has an effect on the population of urban bird species. For example, since eating in hawker centers is banned by law and there is no leftover food on tables, urban bird species will be reduced in numbers.

There are revisions to the Wild Animals and Birds Act. Firstly, the Act will be renamed to Wildlife Act. There are harsher penalties to deter individuals from feeding stray birds or other wildlife without approval. Currently, under the Animals and Birds (Pigeons) Rules, individuals who are caught feeding pigeons are subjected to a fine up to $500. The penalty is revised to be $5,000 for first-time offenders and $10,000 for subsequent offences. I personally believe that the steeper fines will deter individuals from feeding pigeons.

As a psychology student, I was surprised to see theories of behavioral psychology being used to address issues related to bird feeding. Trans-theoretical model is utilized in planning changes in behaviour in bird feeders. Many bird feeders feed out of compassion and goodwill. They believe they are genuinely helping the birds. It is always important to listen to their narrations to understand how to tackle the issue better.

Negative public perceptions and misconceptions about wildlife are mostly driven by fear. People fear that that wildlife is aggressive and invasive. Once these fears are addressed through education and awareness, there will be space for more positive human-wildlife interactions. Cooperation and teamwork from different organisations and stakeholders is required for large scale education programs. Everyone plays a role in making sure that there are positive human-wildlife interactions.

An individual does not need to be an animal lover to co-exist with wildlife; we just need to aware and mindful.

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