Arts group at Night Festival wants you to kill stray cats

From ‘Kill stray cats’ flyer taken out of context’, 1 Sept 2014, article in CNA

Flyers reportedly urging people to “kill stray cats”, which earned the ire of animal welfare groups and online readers over the weekend, were revealed to be taken out of context, TODAY reports. It was part of a satirical performance-exhibition against evil acts by art collective Vertical Submarine, which was commissioned by the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) for the recently concluded Singapore Night Festival.

The art collective issued a statement on its Facebook page clarifying the flyer — of which an image of a sample circulated on social media on Sunday — was taken out of context and was part of a series of flyers highlighting other similarly evil actions as part of the piece Eville.

“The flyers were not distributed to the public for the purpose of advocacy but scattered as part of the performance. We do not advocate or condone the killing of stray cats. On the contrary, we are pleased that the issue of cat abuse is highlighted,” said the group’s statement.

…The flyer on stray cats explains how “charitable elderly lonely widows” spend a total of S$6.6m on cat food and supplies, which could be spent on themselves. These were signed by a so-called Red Herring Conservation Society. The term “red herring” is an idiom referring to something that distracts or misleads people from important issues.

In the statement, Vertical Submarine added: “As part of the Eville exhibition at the Singapore Night Festival, the flyers and other Eville exhibits explore the theme of evilness and depict several acts of evil happening in our society. Satirical didactics were used throughout the show with the intention to provoke reflection within the arch of the Eville exhibition. The flyers were one such device and this would have been clear if the exhibition had been viewed in its entirety, rather than looking at one flyer outside of its context.”

If the flyer had read ‘KILL ALL HUMANS’, it probably wouldn’t get as much attention, though that is just about the most evil thing anyone can do. ‘Satirical didactics’ is an excuse for something that wasn’t very ingenious or witty to begin with, and ended up slightly more serious than satirical, like a New Nation article about PM Lee unfriending his Indonesian counterpart on Facebook. No cats were harmed in the exhibition, of course. Though many butterflies had to die for someone else’s gruesome piece of taxidermal ‘art’ some years back.

Not sure why the Singapore Kindness Movement got involved in macabre performance art of all things, or maybe they just ran out of things to do after the departure of Singa the Lion (who also happens to be a member of the cat family). Cat abuse doesn’t need highlighting, really. We’ve read enough high-profile, grisly stories of how cats are mutilated, disembowelled or thrown 10 storeys off HDB blocks.  To hide an anti-abuse message that we’re used to experiencing on a sickeningly visceral level behind an obtuse ‘context’ isn’t helping matters at all. In fact, it even seems patronising. By resorting to headscratching ‘schlock’ tactics, the arts collective responsible did exactly what a ‘vertical submarine’ would do. Sink to a new low.

Here’s the reason why the joke isn’t funny anymore. In 1952, the government declared all out WAR on stray dogs and cats during the rabies frenzy, issuing ‘shoot to kill’ orders and screening ‘propaganda’ films to alert the public against this vermin scourge. In 2007, it was reported that the AVA kills 13,000 stray cats every year, replying to animal lovers that culling was a ‘necessary sin’. Some residents even complained to their Town Council that they were ‘afraid of cats’ and wanted them put away. If Eville intended to raise ‘awareness’ about unnecessary animal deaths, they should target the government agencies who are the real culprits behind this secret kitty genocide, rather than bring up ‘elderly lonely widows’ (or ‘crazy cat ladies’, which is also a case of lazy stereotyping).

So yes, we already know there are people killing strays out there. What’s really scary is that some are doing it as part of the job and they call the slaughter by a different name. Now let us all enjoy this clip of Maru jumping into random boxes.

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HDB suggesting debarking of noisy dogs

From ‘Dog disturbances, HDB suggests debarking…’, 28 Aug 2014, article in CNA

An animal rights group has voiced “strong objections” to a Housing and Development Board (HDB) suggestion that dog owners who are unable to keep their dogs from barking should consider surgically “debarking” their pets.

The HDB notice, issued by its Ang Mo Kio Branch on Aug 22, referred to a “dog barking nuisance in the middle of the night at Blk 601, Ang Mo Kio Ave 5″. It called upon dog owners to consider one of three options: Obedience training sessions; training collars to control and modify the behavior of their pets; or debarking the dog through surgery.

There are two ways to debark a dog in the vet’s surgery. One, yank its mouth open, pull its tongue forward, grab the vocal cords with forceps and cut them off. Two, make an incision over its voice box, remove voice box and tendons. The dog may continue to bark though effectively muted, but may display ‘neurotic behaviour’. Animal lovers have been long aware of the consequences of debarking, that it would turn the dog into a dangerous ‘monster’ who bites postmen’s crotches willy-nilly without warning. Well so would you if someone de-tongued you. Or if you were forced to do it yourself with a pair of sewing scissors like that finale scene in Oldboy.

Well that’s one way to take a vow of silence

Amazingly, this barbaric practice isn’t banned anywhere in the world. It’s a subtler version of the ancient torture gadget called the ‘choke pear‘, a device which is shoved into a liar’s orifice and unscrewed open slowly leading to severe internal mutilation. If a human being can’t seem to keep it down whatever the situation, to suggest making a few snips around the voicebox would be considered cruel even under general anaesthetic. We all know a few karaoke singers around the block who desperately need to be de-‘sung’, but HDB wouldn’t dare suggest that we send these chronic screechers for ‘voice recalibration’. It would be psychological torture, because God gave us voices to sing and recite poetry under the moonlight so we can score mates and reproduce.

There are less invasive ways to make any yapping dog shut the hell up without taking the ‘dog-ness’ out of him. Give him something to chomp and latch on. Like the groin of some HDB officer on his dog-silencing prowls for example. Or pay hundreds of dollars to get on stage live with Cesar Milan when he comes to town, whose dog sorcerer magic can turn your boisterous, extrovert dog into a hushed, plaintive squeaker which just a single, penetrating stare. If dogshit became a rampant problem, we have it in our human ingenuity to surgically remodel a dog’s anus, creating an artificial defecatory delay so that we can catch its poo in time and avoid the nasty business of picking the yucky thing up from the ground.

HDB comes across in their notice as treating a dog’s voicebox as a switch to turn on and off, like an annoying leaky tap that a plumber can fix. In 1985, they even considered a blanket ban of dogs in general from homes because of complaints by residents. But it’s not always the Board endorsing the torture of innocent creatures. Some owners resort to turning their Wolverine cats into Hello Kittys by ‘declawing’, which involves some form of amputation of the feline’s digits so that their human babies don’t get disfigured by moody cats. All you World War POWs got off easy by just having your fingernails yanked out one by one. In agriculture, calves are dehorned by a searing hot iron so that they won’t gore farmers or other animals. Or remind people too much of Satan.

Let’s hope our MND Minister and well known Buddhist animal lover Khaw Boon Wan puts his money where his bark is and stop this debarking nonsense once and for all. As for those who complained about the dog nuisance, maybe this clip will change your mind about dog barks.

Barney the crocodile found dead at Kranji Reservoir

From ‘Death of wild crocodile a mystery’, 4 May 2014, article by Feng Zengkun, Sunday Times

A 400kg crocodile, probably one of the largest to have roamed wild here in decades, has been found dead on the Kranji Reservoir grounds. Fondly nicknamed Barney by anglers, its death has puzzled experts as the creature had seemed relatively young and healthy, and had no visible injuries.

National water agency PUB, which oversees the area, said it was informed about the dead reptile about three weeks ago. The 3.6m-long saltwater crocodile was disposed of at a nearby farm.

More saltwater crocodiles – the world’s largest reptile and known to be formidable predators – have been spotted in Singapore in recent years. Last year, about 10 of them were found living in waters around the north-western coastline, up from two in 2008.

There have also been regular sightings at Sungei Buloh and around Kranji Reservoir, although PUB said none had been reported in Kranji in 2012 and last year.

…Anyone who spots a crocodile should keep away from it and not provoke it. Once at a safe distance, they should contact PUB’s 24-hour call centre on 1800-284-6600 or the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority’s Animal Response Centre on 1800-476-1600.

This croc tips the scales

Reticulated pythons seem to be under the charge of a different agency (ACRES), though both reptiles can be nasty predators. So what happens if one finds a python swimming in a reservoir? Call PUB, ACRES or AVA? Saltwater crocodiles are the world’s LARGEST living reptiles, and I thought naming the deceased beast after a singing, purple dinosaur that haunts every parent’s dreams was pretty clever. So a tiny country like ours with limited wild spaces has both the largest crocodiles and largest pythons on EARTH. How are we still ALIVE?

Here is a quick social history of crocs in Singapore:

Croc trapping: In 1894, a croc was sighted in what was known as the ‘Impounding Reservoir’ on Thomson Road and men attempted to snare it using an elaborate trap called a ‘nibong’, which involves a dead duck as bait and a coconut. This cruel device  lacerated the croc from within after it swallowed the bait, and was found dead soon after. We didn’t give them affectionate names then; it was just called a BRUTE. Well thankfully, trapping has become more humane since, though these bait-and-cage devices  kinda makes the living fossil look pretty dumb too. Even if they’ve been around far longer than our own species.

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Badass Croc killers: In 1911, a croc was gunned to death at Serangoon River by a certain D.C Cook with a Browning automatic pistol. Aw Boon Haw, of Tiger Balm fame, himself tried to shoot one with his revolver but missed (1925, Katong). We had our very own ‘Crocodile Hunter’ in the form of Boey Peng Kow, who was charged for reckless shooting in 1935. 2 years later, an Australian showed his prowess in HARPOONING crocs as if they were sturgeon. An instructor for the Singapore Trade School showed off his trophy catch after killing one with a single shot (1939), posing in the kind of photo that today would earn a million ‘Likes’ on Facebook or Instagram. Such Crocodile Dundees don’t exist anymore. We don’t conquer wild animals and pose with our feet on them like hunters do. We do SELFIES, or worse, COLLAGES of selfies of some utterly meagre accomplishment. Or tell everyone that we completed a 3.5 km jog on Runkeeper.

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Croc attacks: A child went missing after being dragged into the Ulu Pandan river by a croc (1946). An Indian labourer was MAULED by one which he kept as a PET.  In 1989, the Police opened fire on a charging croc in Seletar. Other than these rare cases, you’re probably as likely to be eaten by a croc as being gored by a wild boar. Heck, there’s a higher chance of you being stung to death by angry bees.

Croc harvesting: Croc skinning and tanning was a thriving business in the 1930’s. In the late 40’s you could even BUY your own baby crocodile for about $25. So much in demand was croc leather that people would resort to stealing baby crocodiles. In 1970, FIFTY FOUR of these babies were nicked from croc ‘nurseries’. Singapore’s Heng Long Tannery was one of the top five croc tanneries in the WORLD in 2011, recently acquired by French luxury group LVMH, which also snapped up Crystal Jade. Of course Singaporeans get more worked up about local companies getting bought over by Europeans when food is involved, caring little about crocodile hide processing.

Croc haunts (other than rivers and reservoirs): In 1949, a 41/2 foot long croc was found in a Geylang DRAIN.  In 1991, another sighting took place in a monsoon drain at Fort Road (Crocodile spotted in monsoon drain at Fort Road, 22 Sept 1991). One wandered onto Tuas SHIPYARD in 1998.

Croc attractions: The Jurong Crocodile Paradise was conceived in 1987, and cost $8 million to build. It closed down in 2006, only to be replaced by The Village@Jurong Hill, a suburban mall. The theme park featured a female croc named HULK HOGAN, who bit off part of a performer’s FACE during a show in 1989. Less well known was a place in East Coast Park since 1981 called the Singapore CROCODILARIUM, which featured crocodile WRESTLING. Even earlier than these, we had the crocodile farms of the 70s. The longest surviving one, the Tan Moh Hong Reptile Skin and Crocodile Farm, closed shop in 2012. Today, you can find the most crocodiles, or rather what’s left of the reptile, in the bag wardrobe of socialite Jamie Chua. Or you could just head down to Kranji Countryside’s Long Kuan Hung Crocodile Farm. Gone are those head-in-jaws of death stunts, the only thing I remember about my trip to the gone-but-not-forgotten Jurong attraction. If you want death-defying thrills in Jurong these days, there’s Jem mall.

Croc love: In 1979, a woman in Tampines kept a pet croc named – wait for it – CROCKY.  In 1988, the press portrayed elusive crocs in Seletar reservoir as our very own ‘Loch Ness monsters’. Maybe we should name the next croc we spot ‘Nessie’.

Croc logos: Clothing giant Singapore Crocodile had a legal tussle with Lacoste in 2006 over similar logos. Our brand eventually won, partly because the court found that the ‘head of the Singaporean Crocodile poses towards left while the French Lactose’s head towards right’. Lacoste was formed first, by the way, 10 years before Crocodile in 1943.

Croc pervs: Crocodile in Malay is ‘Buaya’, a term used to describe a different kind of ladykiller altogether, though rather outdated in my opinion. In 1936, a ‘buaya’ was a ‘favourite epithet for an untrustworthy scoundrel, guilty of evil deeds’. It wasn’t until the 90’s that it was used to describe flirts and womanisers.

Croc eats: Crocodile meat seems more palatable than python. Braised crocodile tail is a popular dish which you can snap up at the ‘Old Geylang’ eatery. We also used to have a stall at Old Airport Road named ‘Singapore King Crocodile’, which sells ‘croc meat bak kut teh’. Presumably it tastes like a hybrid of chicken/pork. No surprise that Barney was sent to the nearest farm then. Maybe you can have a taste of him when you can buy CROCODILE BAK KWA.

UPDATE: ST Forum published a statement by PUB (PUB probing crocodile’s death, 16 May 2014, ST) revealing that Barney might have been hunted down by poachers, as he was found with a large fish hook in his mouth and a metal rod impaled in his eye. The only croc farm remaining in Singapore, Long Kuan Hung Crocodile farm, has denied that it received Barney’s carcass as what the ST previously reported. The killers remain at large, while everyone else is caught up in the media frenzy over 5 boys who spray painted a wall.

14 year old student throwing cat down 10 storeys

From ‘Cat thrown down 10 storeys; suspect is a teen’, 1 May 2013, article by David Ee, ST

A cat survived a 10-storey fall from a Nee Soon Housing Board block on Sunday. The animal is currently in a stable condition at Mount Pleasant Animal Hospital, but may have to undergo surgery for a fractured front paw, said the Cat Welfare Society (CWS) which is monitoring the case. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority said it is investigating the case. The Straits Times understands that the suspected culprit is a 14-year-old student studying in the area.

This is the first publicised case of animal abuse since the National Development Ministry accepted an expert panel’s recommendations to strengthen animal welfare last Friday. Among the recommendations are harsher penalties where convicted animal abusers face a fine of up to $50,000 and/or a three-year jail term.

…Cases of cruelty to animals have risen in recent years, with a total of 1,426 reported cases in 2011, up from 1,162 in 2007.

A study conducted on cats thrown off buildings in New York suggests that cats flung from higher than 7 storeys had less injuries than those than fell from lower floors. Although this ‘miracle’ that has attributed to the 9 lives myth is due to the feline having more time to perform its ‘righting reflex’, what’s more disturbing is that tossing cats out of buildings is common enough for scientists to generate sufficient data to study this phenomenon.  In 2011, a British cat plummeted more than 12 storeys after being thrown by ‘yobs’, suffering nothing but a broken tooth. She was henceforth named ‘Everest’. In Singapore, a cat that survives a 10-storey plunge will probably be named ‘Lucky’, just like 80% of all cats, dogs and hamsters reared as pets in Singapore.

Last year, a $1K reward was put up to find the person responsible for throwing and killing Cheeky, a black and white cat in Ang Mo Kio. This was later raised to $6k by an anonymous donor. Yet, in most cases of animal abuse, the killer usually goes scot-free, with or without a bounty on his head. Behead a cat, or toss an entire box of kittens down your flat and you have a good chance of escaping jail-time unless you’re dumb enough to record your stunt on your mobile phone. Spray paint ‘Democracy’ on a war memorial, on the other hand, and the police will run extensive investigations day and night to haul your vandal ass into court within 3 days, that even without anyone paying you a single cent for clues.

Why the lack or urgency in catching animal abusers then. Isn’t mutilating an animal a more ‘deplorable’ act than defacing a wall? Do we need to have a bounty hunter system just to entice people into bringing perpetrators of such gruesome crimes to justice? But the real question here that no one can answer is WHY is this even HAPPENING. A booming economy and a prosperous nation without wisdom, humanity or compassion, and having to create the illusion of that so-called humanity through ‘the arts’ and severe penalties, is a failed society, one driven by the basest of impulses, whereby an educated adolescent may excel academically but is nothing but a heartless wretch inside. No, it’s not just a kid with a sick agenda and very itchy fingers that needs help. It’s all of US.

Community work or probation may not be the ideal punishment here. This kid could still fantasise about running kittens through a paper shredder. Cruelty against animals calls for brutal conditioning. Strap the bugger down and have a bunch of vengeful cats use his legs as a scratching post, to an endless loop of copulation induced meowing for 48 hours. Rest assured he won’t be going anywhere near a cat, not even an adorable video of Lil Bub, without first foaming at the mouth.

Wen Wen the dolphin dead, age 10

From ‘Dolphin at RWS dies en route to Singapore’, 22 Nov 2012, article in Today online.

Wen Wen, one of the 25 dolphins at Resorts World at Sentosa, died en route to Singapore today.

Marine Life Park has issued the following statement:

We are deeply saddened that Wen Wen, one of our 25 dolphins, died en route to Singapore today. Wen Wen, a male dolphin estimated to be ten years old, died suddenly less than an hour into landing during the three-hour flight. Two marine mammal veterinarians and eight marine mammal specialists accompanying and monitoring the 11 dolphins on the flight responded with emergency medical treatment.

…The Marine Life Park’s four veterinarians have a combined experience of successfully transporting more than 500 marine mammals. The same veterinary team, with a collective experience with marine mammals of over 70 years, as well as the team of marine mammal specialists on the flight, successfully completed our dolphins’ transport to Subic Bay and the recent transport of our 14 dolphins to Singapore.

A necropsy was performed this morning in the presence of AVA officers. Over the next few weeks, further laboratory tests will be conducted in Singapore and the United States to assess any contributing factors.

…Wen Wen was a sociable dolphin that survived a shark attack in the wild and had the scars of a shark bite on his torso. Wen Wen and his trainer had developed a strong bond during their four years together. He will be sorely missed.

Bottlenose dolphins like Wen Wen can live up to 40 years, but if you’re going to spend the rest of your years living the Flipper lifestyle entertaining kids you would want to end your misery early too. The Marine Life Park was quick to emphasise the amount of research and dedicated expert care into ensuring the well being of their stars, as well as hinting that Wen Wen would have been shark fodder if he had not been ‘saved’ from the atrocities of the wild. What the RWS spokespeople fail to mention is how Wen Wen and his Seaworld inmates got into this mess in the first place, or how heavily invested we are in this dolphin-napping operation to not back out now.

27 bottlenose dolphins were captured off the Solomon Islands, of which 25 survived captivity in the Phillippines waiting to be shipped to Singapore (2 died in Langkawi in 2010 following a bacterial infection). They were KIDNAPPED, not invited, adopted, rescued from Jaws nor born out of Dolphin World already equipped with hoop-jumping abilities. In 2009, Senator Jorge Ordorica of Mexico wrote a letter to then National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan to think twice about dolphin shows after a dozen died within 5 years of their transport to a Cancun water park. One died from transport-related stress, which is deemed a ‘common occurrence’ and looks very much like what Wen Wen succumbed to in this case. Mexico then proceeded to ban all dealings with cetaceans for entertainment purposes, while our authorities decided to go ahead with its gaudy, expensive oceanarium circus anyway, which the way I see it, was planned to preserve the allure of IRs in the event of loss of interest in the casinos.

This isn’t the first time we’ve had dolphins suffering or dying in captivity. In 2003, an endangered pink dolphin from Sentosa’s Dolphin Lagoon named Jumbo had to have 11 teeth EXTRACTED due to wear and tear, apparently from fighting with another male captive. Earlier in 2001, another pink dolphin Namtam died of acute gastritis. The same Namtam, along with another female named Pann, also had to deal with a tragic miscarriage barely a year earlier. When we first set up the Dolphin Lagoon in the late nineties, the AVA made a ‘clerical error’ in reporting the acquired animals as ‘bred in captivity’ when some were in fact caught from the wild. The SPCA in 2010 judged the size of  the dolphin enclosure at Underwater World to be that of a ‘swimming pool’, too small to accommodate the six dolphins, while the company insisted that it surpassed guidelines. That’s like saying Bedok Reservoir is comfortable enough for the Loch Ness monster.

All this for the sake of a wet and wild showcase that is as campy as training Kai Kai and Jia Jia to ride unicycles while holding paws. You can make one dolphin do more tricks with a football than the entire Lions squad, or get cosy with international superstars like Mariah Carey in 2000. The singer reportedly refused to get off her plane like a spoilt brat while demanding to frolic with the Sentosa darlings.

Mimi emancipated

So it’s not just ‘homesickness’ that dolphins have to deal with while keeping our kids entertained. They fight, they suffer strange diseases and they deliver stillborns. According to a Today writer and a fan of ‘The Cove’, more than half of all captured dolphins die within two years of captivity. But you could argue that animals die prematurely and horribly in captivity all the time, in the zoo, or a lab and that it’s easy to get riled up about dolphins because they’re ‘almost human’. This Wen Wen incident, like shark’s fin soup, will be divided between animal lovers and people accusing animal lovers of being hypocrites. Nobody goes to the aid of the guinea pig getting paralysed in a botched experiment, or the monkey forced to wear a tutu for a busking hobo. ACRES was deathly silent about the thousands of sheep flown here for ritual korban slaughter. Maybe sheep just aren’t smiley enough.

Putting aside arguments from a compassionate standpoint or how sentient dolphins really are compared to bunnies in a cage, or whether they’re really smiling or being ironic when they splash about to Katy Perry music, perhaps we should talk about ‘necessity’ instead. Do we need this so much that we’re willing to let some animals suffer for it? Is science worth drilling a monkey’s brain for? How about tourism dollars? Seeing a child with terminal illness or the disabled pet a dolphin on the nose? Will Mariah Carey ever set foot on our shores again without dolphins? What can I get out of Marine Life Park that I won’t out of National Geographic on cable? Is there anything less controversial that I can use to replace vulnerable cetaceans? A giant squid that predicts football results perhaps?

If we can achieve the drastic result of banning sharks’ fin from supermarkets and hotels, we can also put pressure on unnecessary ‘dolphinariums’ that really serve to bolster casino earnings and pander to megastar fantasy rather than to ‘educate’ the public or contribute to ‘conversation efforts’. If 100,000 petitioners won’t do the trick, hopefully one shocking, and jarringly for RWS – embarrassing, loss of life would sound the death knell of this aquatic circus-prison once and for all. As I would turn to our PM Lee and say, losing a Dolphin Park  is not the ‘be-all and end-all’ of the entertainment/tourist/marine industry. A backflip at this point of the project and slowly re-introducing the animals back into the wild may well be the respectable thing to do without compromising the rest of the less adorable marine attractions. The IRs are already contributing to human suffering, let’s not drag other mammals into our moral decline too.

Giant Pandas in Singapore for a decade

From ‘Giant pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia arrive in Singapore’, 6 Sept 2012, Today online

Singapore welcomed two new residents, giant pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia from Chengdu, China this morning. The pandas are in Singapore on a 10-year loan from the Chinese government to mark two decades of strong ties between China and Singapore.

Kai Kai and Jia Jia boarded a Singapore Airlines Boeing 747 cargo freighter at 3.45am this morning, arriving at Singapore Changi Airport about four and a half hours later along with a team of five keepers and vets from both China and Singapore who were also on board to ensure the pandas’ well-being.

…It was the pandas’ first time away from home, and extra care was taken to minimise stress for the animals.  The departure and arrival times were scheduled to reduce climate-related discomfort for the pandas. The cabin temperature was kept between 18 to 22 degrees celsius, consistent to their native habitat in Sichuan, China.

Fruits, water and about 90kg of bamboo were also carried on board for the pandas’ meals. Wildlife Reserves Singapore also brought along bamboo from Guangzhou, in case the pandas need time to adjust to the taste of locally-grown bamboo.

This is only the third time in history that Singaporeans have seen pandas in the flesh. Cute and cuddly national treasures aside, KKJJ are beasts turned political gifts as part of China’s bid for world domination. In 1988, JIAO JIAO arrived here as part of a Circus troupe, performing tricks like riding a horse and eating with fork and spoon at the Kallang Theatre. These acts, of course, are totally unnatural to the poor creature, which spends most of its time gnawing on shoots, sleeping, or tumbling down playground slides. Perhaps the pandas’ new loft has the latter to deliver hours of solid entertainment to the zoo folk, though it may distract the pair from the REAL purpose of planting them here: To grow our very own SingaPanda, failure of which Kai Kai may have to be prodded by a gland-stimulating stick in order of us to save face. We may have to do that to our childless couples too some day.

In 1990, we took custody of AN AN and XINXING for 100 days without them dying. KKJJ will be here for a decade, by which time they would probably feel right at home, not so much because we would have devised a way of genetically modifying our local bamboo into panda chow, but because it wouldn’t be just their caretakers and feeders who’re China-born, but maybe half the population here as well.

Pandas are notorious for their dismal libido and diet preferences, though pop culture has made them synonymous with kungfu fighting. All this fanfare and media blitz over KKJJ aside, it’s worth noting that rent-a-panda schemes still risk ending in disaster despite the good intentions, technology, attention and money involved. Only recently, a panda cub perished in Japan’s Ueno Zoo barely after birth. In 2010, also in Japan, the unfortunately named LONG LONG died after an unsuccessful bid to extract his SPERM in a breeding programme. Casting out pandas as ambassadors to China without doing one’s homework of hostile environments led to the demise and suffering of many a panda in the last century. The first envoy to cross the Iron Curtain Ping Ping died 3 years upon arrival in Russia in 1961. In a time when white men and former US Presidents in trilby hats shot down rare exotic animals as trophies, a panda died on a voyage to London from China via Singapore in 1937. It was painted BROWN to avert unwanted attention. Today, people paint brown dogs into PANDAS.

Cue commercial spin-off into commemorative plush toys, coins, sweets and all sorts of panda memorabilia to celebrate the arrival of two endangered, temperate animals in a hot, strange land, with their names changed (JJ used to be HU BAO, while KK was WU JIE) , eking out a lavish honeymoon in a place called a RIVER SAFARI while incubated in their below-20 C enclosure. Perhaps Breadtalk could relaunch their ‘Peace Panda Buns‘ in honour of KKJJ. Although this is all politics, Sino-relations and tourism marketing in the name of ‘conservation’ of the species, you’d have to wonder just how costly and carbon-unfriendly rearing pandas could be in a tropical climate like ours, and how beneficial this panda exchange programme will be for the EARTH in general. Air-conditioning 24-7, flights to and fro China transporting bamboo and ‘pandalogists’, setting aside land to grow something that can’t sustain any other animal, humans included.  For 10 whole years. The amount of money spent playing panda match-maker could have went into other local green projects and animal welfare, unless we discover a renewable energy resource in panda poop.

If only there were as many panda souveniers as there are panda puns; If I had 5 cents for every time someone mentions the annoying word ‘pandamonium’, I would have enough money to foster KKJJ myself, or send them back into the reserve where they belong.

The silencing of the Boars

From ‘Crossbows to cull wild boar’, 11 June 2012, article by Feng Zeng Kun, ST

KILLING wild boar with bows and arrows may sound primitive, but the National Parks Board (NParks) is considering the method to curb the animal population. The Straits Times has learnt that the agency met animal welfare groups last month to discuss using powerful crossbows against the animals.

It told the groups that the silence of the bows would avoid alerting the animals, which travel in groups. In trained hands, a single bolt could also kill a boar instantly.

…The Straits Times understands that most of the groups did not favour the method and considered it inhumane. The agency said it would enlist the help of trained archers to do the job, should it decide to go with this culling method.

…Mr Louis Ng, executive director of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), says NParks could sterilise the animals instead. ‘Culling doesn’t work because the animals breed every year. You would have to cull them every year’ …’Put up fences. Wild boar are big and powerful, but they can’t jump,’ he said.

Pork-eye

Boar hunts have been documented in Singapore as early as the late 1870s, where white men with a pack of dogs chased these beasts around the Bukit Timah area with a shotgun, occasionally finding a boa constrictor getting to the prize first. Locals stalked boars with guns even up till the late fifties, and anyone who happened to be plucking leaves in the forest may find himself at the wrong end of a buck shot after being mistaken for a pig. In 1957, a wild boar hunter was charged for murder for firing at and killing a certain Abdul Kareem. Today, you’re unlikely to get hit by bullets, but you may fall into a pit intended to snare these animals, or have your foot maimed in an illegal trap. Seems like the $1000 penalty for killing them isn’t severe enough to stop some Singaporeans from living out their Man vs Wild fantasies.

Only Theseus can slaughter this monster

But how much of a nuisance are these pigs? In the 60’s, boars were known to charge at and almost gore amorous couples at Macritchie Reservoir.  On Malaysia’s highways, a charging boar may cause fatal accidents, a freak scenario which is unlikely to happen here, though you can have other breeds of swine ramming themselves into innocent people on our roads. We don’t have crops for them to ravage, nor do they steal our grocery bags or scratch and bite like the monkeys do. They don’t shit all over our cars or air-con compressors, nor spread airborne diseases. For all intents and purposes, man and boar have been left pretty much to themselves.  More animals and humans have been injured by wannabe boar hunters than the tusked beasts. If there’s any wildlife that bugs the hell out of us it’s the damned birds, and before we hire Green Arrows, Legolases, Hawkeyes and Katnisses to do the dirty work for us, perhaps we should control our pesky mynahs, crows and pigeons first. Hell, maybe we don’t even need to pay hunters to trap boars at all; our road barriers can do a pretty decent job as it is.

It’s not funny if it’s your kid in it

One of the arguments cited for culling is that wild boars ‘trample and destroy the forest undergrowth’ (They destroy forests, 16 June 2012, ST Forum), especially since they have no known ‘natural predators’. Well, there’s another animal higher up in the food chain which no other being eats and destroys forests and old cemeteries for development at a faster rate than a bunch of seed-gobbling, soil-digging pigs. Us.

Even if the authorities eventually attempt to equilibrate whatever’s left of our ecosystem through controlled murder, I’m not sure about crossbows as a weapon of choice. Our ‘archers’ (most likely members of some sporting club because the army no longer plays Cowboys and Indians) may need just one shot to kill a pig in the quickest, most painless, squeal-less way possible, but you probably need an experienced poacher to tell the difference between a pig and a foraging human from a distance. A poorly judged snapped twig may make all the difference between an impaled hog, or a pierced stray dog. You need someone with the seasoned, pricked ears to tell the difference between a frightened porcine grunt and something more human.  If these sharpshooters don’t bring home the game, at least their very presence, or even the very thought of arrows flying all over the place,  would deter people from having sex in jungles.

Why not blowpipes loaded with tranquiliser darts, where at least there’s room for mistaken identity, after which you can proceed to make a proper meal out of the animal and feed the needy, or Wong Ah Yoke?

SOON

Postscript: A few weeks after this post, a boar reported charged at a CISCO officer (who hurt his hand in the ensuing escape) and a child (who wasn’t harmed) in Bishan Park, and Khaw Boon Wan, a self-declared staunch Buddhist, publicly supported the decision to ‘manage’ the wild boar population because ‘protecting our babies’ is more important. Maybe we should leave it to the real boar-killing professionals below.

Snakes in a Drain

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