MBS food court chicken rice stall infested with cockroaches

From ‘NEA to take action against Marina Bay Sands stall for cockroach infestation’, 11 Oct 2014, article in CNA

The National Environment Agency (NEA) will be taking enforcement action against a chicken rice stall at the foodcourt at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) for cockroach infestation.

In a statement on Saturday (Oct 11), NEA said it has found cockroach infestation at the stall in the 1983 – A Taste of Nanyang foodcourt. The foodcourt has voluntarily closed since Tuesday evening (Oct 7) for cleaning and pest control treatment, in the wake of customer complaints and photographs of cockroaches that went viral online.

…The 1983 – A Taste of Nanyang food court is located at the South Promenade of The Shoppes at MBS and is run by Koufu. Other branches can be found at Changi Airport Terminal 1, JEM, Republic Polytechnic, ITE Ang Mo Kio and the Nanyang Technological University.

When Facebook user Kovit Ang posted his image of a troop of five roaches ready to attack pieces of fried meat, he did weight-watchers all over the country a huge favour. Now if you find yourself having a ridiculous craving for chicken rice between meals, it helps to recall that horrific photo, feel the surge of bile up your throat, and switch to an apple and a protein bar instead. But before one tars all Food Republics, Kopitiams and Koufus with the same brush, remember that one of the reasons why food courts exist is because people wanted to avoid pests like stray mynahs and, in the case of the recently shut down Ghim Moh Market, rats living in up to 71 burrows.

Not much is mentioned about the significance of ‘1983’ in the Koufu website other than a story that suggests the origin of nasi lemak at Malacca Street. It wasn’t that far from ‘1983’ when Singapore had its very first ‘food court’. Scotts Picnic in Orchard, established in 1985, was supposed to be an ‘upmarket’ hawker centre, where patrons could eat in air-conditioned comfort. A string of food halls with the same dining concept and similarly snazzy titles (Food Paradiz, Food Palace) followed suit, but within 3 years owners were reporting slumps in takings, with complaints that the air-conditioning made oily smells cling to one’s office attire. This despite attempts to install roman columns and chandeliers or employ a live DJ to spin the latest 80’s hits.

The food court idea was meant to be an improvement of the existing hawker centre infrastructure, a culinary ‘renaissance’ so to speak, for the busy office worker in the heart of town. Today, with a near patriotic resurgence of hawker culture, these places have been reviled by food lovers all over, not so much for the hygiene or stubborn oily smells, but because it’s the only place where you’ll get charged $8.50 for chicken rice, cockroach or no cockroach, that tastes mediocre, if not downright terrible. There are exceptions, of course, though seeing a Hokkien Mee seller in a food court wearing a straw hat doesn’t mean the dish is any good.

Food guru Dr Leslie Tay is all too familiar with how the food court subletting system compromises the quality of one’s cooking, himself declaring that he would never visit such a food court if he could help it.  Koufu Sentosa has even found itself listed on Lonely Planet, the nadir of the evolution of the food court from hawker centre upgrade to campy tourist trap. The operator has even masked its hydra arms in various guises, calling its Star Vista branch in Buona Vista ‘Kitchen’, among others including ‘Gallerie’, ‘Rasapura’ and the ultimate, ‘GOURMET PARADISE’. The only thing ‘nostalgic’ about 1983’s Taste of Nanyang after this roach incident is how it suddenly reminds you of the conditions on board the overcrowded boats our migrant forefathers arrived in, like in ‘The Awakening’.

But if you’re a Koufu devotee and still believe that the cockroach incident in an iconic building is an isolated incident simply blown out of proportion, maybe this photo below, snapped at Koufu HDB Hub Toa Payoh circa 2011, will change your mind not just about the franchise, but chicken rice forever.

The menu at Koufu has gone beyond ‘exotic’

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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.

Muslim woman demanding full refund for pigskin shoes

From ‘Muslim seeks refund for shoes lined with pig skin’, 24 June 2014, article by Melissa Lin, ST

A MUSLIM woman who bought a pair of $279 shoes was incensed to find out, after wearing them for six months, that the shoes were lined with pig skin. Administrative assistant Nur Najwa Abdullah, 43, is demanding a full refund from foot care chain Happy Walker, claiming that the sales staff had told her the shoes were made of calf skin.

Ustaz Firdaus Yahya, manager of the Darul Huffaz Learning Centre which promotes understanding of the Quran, said: “In Islam, anything related to pork, such as the meat or skin, is considered unclean.”

Islamic experts say while the use of pig-skin products is not considered a sin, a Muslim should go through a cleansing ritual if he or she has used the product….She complained to the Happy Walker outlet and told the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) about it. Muis advised her to discard the shoes and wash her feet with water and clay, a ritual cleansing.

If I were the manager of a shoe shop and someone asks me for a FULL refund for religious reasons, my natural reaction is to determine if I have in fact inflicted spiritual duress on the complainant and if the offence were indeed in accordance to what the scriptures prescribe. Granted, this Unhappy Walker customer was misinformed about the nature of the product, but MUIS have already declared that it’s ‘not a sin’ and Happy Walker was willing to offer half the money back out of goodwill. I would assume a 6-month old $279 pair would still be in good working condition, so this isn’t returning a ‘defective’ product, so much as a defective lapse in communication and understanding of how Islam works when it comes to dogs and swine. A waste of a perfectly good pair if MUIS’s recommendation is throwing the wretched filth away, short of burning it with fire.

Curious about what our Islamic authority has to say about touching nasty, forbidden things, I browsed a MUIS’ FAQ webpage, but came away with more questions than answers. Here’s a sample:

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Does ‘hides’ include chemically treated, tanned leather?
If the pig and my hand are both dry, do I still need to wash the affected area 7 times?
How do I know if the earth/sand I use is not also contaminated with heavy Najis? Does MUIS have an analytical lab to sniff out najis compounds?
How pure should ‘pure clean water’ be? Will tap water do? Or do I need an entire lab apparatus to distill water for the purposes of ritual cleansing?
If I accidentally exposed my mouth and gums to pig-hair toothbrushes do I have to gargle with 6 parts water and 1 part water/earth too?

Pigs aside, what struck me most were these answers below as to whether it’s OK for a Muslim to TOUCH a DOG.

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So is it OK to touch a dry dog with a dry hand and not cleanse after that?
Do I need to wash if I touched dried dog saliva in a cab?
Do I need a measuring jug to measure exactly 6 parts water and 1 part water and earth?
Must the water be pure and distilled as well?
If I step on fresh dogshit with shoes on, do I need to purify the dirty shoe?
If I step on dogshit with bare feet can I wash with soap first before doing the ritual wash?
Does ‘dog’ include coyote, wolf and dingo?

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What if I have chronically sweaty palms?
Can I swim, bathe, play sweaty sports with someone who eats pork?
Can my child play with toys in the image of a pig but made of non-porcine material?
How small are these ‘particles’ you speak of. Crumbs, or molecules?
Can I drink from the same bottle as a pork-eater?
What happens if I get bitten by a mosquito that just sucked dog’s blood?
If my non-Muslim friend became vegetarian just a day ago, how long must I wait before not a trace of pork filth is retained in his body?

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WHY CATS?

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.

Python found in Toa Payoh swimming pool

From ‘ Python found in pool at Toa Payoh Swimming Complex on Tuesday morning’, 29 April 2014, article by Lim Yan Liang, ST

A reticulated python was found in a pool at Toa Payoh swimming complex on Tuesday morning. Fortunately, the pool was closed for its scheduled half-day weekly maintenance.

Sport Singapore said a pool operator discovered the snake at about 6am inside its competition pool, which is not opened to the public as it is used by national swimmers and lifeguards for training. There are protocols in place for situations like this, it added.

The snake was removed by about 7.10am by representatives from animal welfare group, the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres). An Acres spokesman told The Straits Times that the non-venomous snake will be microchipped and released back into the wild.

The ST managed to squeeze in a story about a swimming snake

The ST managed to squeeze in a story about a swimming snake

Well, there’s the solution to the wild boar problem, ACRES. Unleash a 3 metre monster into ‘the wild’. Wherever that is. Big snakes have slid into human territory for the longest time, and along with their porcine prey, we’d expect to see more creatures make forays into our living spaces with rapid urbanisation, all at the expense of what’s left of this ‘wild’.

Here’s 10 things you didn’t know about pythons in Singapore, other than the fact that they’re non-venomous, usually harmless, or fancy a cool dip in a pool once in a while.

1. Watch out when you withdraw money from an ATM machine. You may get more than just cold hard cash, but a cold-blooded reptile slithering up your arm. This encounter, in 1990, was also in Toa Payoh.

2. Snakes weren’t so tenderly microchipped and escorted back into the wild in the past. They were bashed to death by hockey sticks, shot in the head with rifles, or DECAPITATED by policemen with an axe.

3. In the 50’s, enterprising snake-nabbers would sell pythons for $50. In 1878, an eye witness reported a scene of a dog placed in the same cage as a python for pure entertainment. In RAFFLES INSTITUTION.

4. BIG PYTHON was once used as a SAF mobilisation code. Well, it sure beats LONG MILLIPEDE.

5. Snakes have been found in the oddest places. Some pythons may even land up in your TOILET BOWL, while you’re taking a sssssshit. So don’t ever flush dead fish or hamsters down the sewers. Your dead pet, their food. You can find one curled up all warm and comfy in your car BONNET if you’re lucky. Other pythons prefer to take the BUS.

6. People in Chinatown used to worship a female python named SOON TECK, who laid up to 60 eggs on the 9th day of the Lunar New Year in 1985.

7. The most frequent headline used in snake articles by the ST is ‘SNAKES ALIVE’.  Other puns include ‘Snakes are hisss business’, and most recently ‘Surprise sssswimmer in Toa Payoh Pool’ (30 Apr 14). The worst headline in my opinion belongs to Today paper, with the ssssucky ‘SSSSS, ANY SNAKES HERE?‘(26 Jan 2001).

8. The only reported incident I uncovered of a python actually attacking someone was in 1965, when a 20 ft snake in Bukit Timah reserve tried to swallow a 10 year old girl. She turned out fine. I couldn’t find any other news about locals getting killed or eaten alive.

9. If you find a snake in your room and you hire a pest-control team to remove it, you’re expected to pay somewhere in the range of $300-600. In the early 80’s you could count on ‘Ah Chee’ from Chinatown, self-professed ‘Sei Chai’ or ‘Snake Boy’, who catches and serves freshly killed python meat to customers. No surprise that it ‘tastes like chicken’.

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10. The reticulated python is the WORLD’S LONGEST SNAKE (Even longer than the Giant Anaconda!). A 6-metre monster, twice the length of the Toa Payoh swimmer, was caught in Lorong Marzuki in 1986, an area fondly known as ‘Pythons Place’.

ACRES encourages people to leave our serpentine visitors to the professionals, but they should make it easier for us to remember the 24 hour wildlife rescue hotline (9783 7782). Like 1800-HISS-HISS for example. No one can remember beyond a three digit number when they’re panicking, which explains why the first thought that comes to mind whenever we see a python is calling the police or fire department. By the time you try to log on the Internet to find ACRES’ contact, the beast would probably have taken your pet dog, cat and chinchilla for dinner, before slithering away into the nearest canal, never to be seen again.

 

 

 

Esme the guide dog not allowed in Forever 21

From ‘Store says sorry over guide dog incident’, 30 Nov 2012, article by Melissa Lin, ST

A FACEBOOK post from a blind woman with a guide dog who recounted her treatment by staff at a Forever 21 clothing outlet went viral yesterday, prompting the American retailer to apologise. Ms Cassandra Chiu, 33, who contracted Stargardt disease when she was eight and lost her vision over time, was at the fashion chain’s Orchard Exchange outlet yesterday afternoon with her six-year-old daughter Kady, a maid and her labrador Esme.

Ms Chiu, a psychotherapist, is the second Singaporean trained to use a guide dog to help her move around.

…After picking up a pair of white pants, she headed to a changing room to try them on. But she was stopped by a female staff member, who told her that no dogs were allowed in the store, Ms Chiu told The Straits Times. She started explaining that Esme was her guide dog, and not her pet, but the staff member walked away before she could finish speaking. “I ended up talking to thin air,” Ms Chiu said.

…Finally, another staff member intervened to say that guide dogs are allowed in the store. Ms Chiu told her to “ask the staff to stop harassing me” and left the store with her purchase of pants.

…The Singapore management of Forever 21 apologised on the post, and said they would like to meet her to apologise in person. “I don’t think that’s necessary,” Ms Chiu said. “The problem is that we need to have a more inclusive society. If they want to do something, they should put a guide dog decal in their store so there won’t be questions about whether guide dogs are allowed inside.”

The president of the Guide Dogs Association of the Blind, Dr Francis Seow-Choen, said people should be more open to guide dogs and be aware of what they are. “They’re not pets. People can be reassured that the guide dogs we bring in have been certified and trained.” Meanwhile, Forever 21 has released a statement saying it has issued an apology to Ms Chiu on its own Facebook page and that of Esme The Guide Dog.

Forever 21 not seeing eye to eye with Seeing eye dog

Esme the dog has her (?) own Facebook page, and it’s more entertaining than BABIES who status update about lactation time. One post recounts how Esme shocked someone while inside the toilet, something I’m not quite used to myself, though I’d rather have a dog staring at me pee than a little girl accompanied by her father. What’s surprising is that Cassandra is only the SECOND blind Singaporean with a guide dog. There could be many reasons why our government has taken so long to implement dogs to help the blind, but some of the most obvious ones are hardly ever mentioned in the article above.

In 1988, it was reported that guide dogs for the blind were barred by various government agencies, of note the Ministry of Health (hospitals and clinics), SBS (buses) with SUPPORT from the predecessor of MICA and, tellingly, the Muslim Religious Council. One can only conclude that the authorities (and certain cultures) deemed a blind man’s helper as a scary, filthy animal, even though a mutt could do more for 1 blind person in its short years of life than a rich, miserly man ever would. The first ever guide dog owner Kua Cheng Hock had to send his pal Stacey back to Australia because of public disapproval. Dogs would have been an economical alternative to enhancing our amenities with disabled-friendly infrastructure, yet we baulk at the thought for the sake of the beliefs or irrational fears of certain individuals. They have been trained not to lick, bite, bark or shit about unnecessarily, which is more than you say of some human beings. I’m not sure if they’ve been trained not to SALIVATE though.

It wasn’t until 2005, when we only had ONE guide dog (Kendra) in the entire country, that SMRT Transit decided to allow them on public transport provided that they were accompanied by station masters and dressed in a harness, just in case there were people who were ‘afraid of dogs’ or ‘culturally sensitive’. Restaurants, with blessings from NEA, followed suit in the same year. Esme in fact posted pics of herself and owner in IKEA, on a bus, in a church, in NTUC, Food Junction and surprisingly, in a cab. This dog has been to more places than the most pampered Pomeranian puppy in Singapore.

Wimp

Wimp

So what do Muslims do when they’re blind and walking canes are not an option? Get a miniature horse, of course. But probably not feasible in Singapore as the poor creatures are likely to be harrassed by kids (and some adults) wanting to ride them like My Little Ponies. Britain passed a groundbreaking fatwa in 2008 allowing a blind teen to walk into a MOSQUE with his guide dog. We’re unlikely to become THAT inclusive, though such acceptance of a taboo animal on holy ground so that one can pray is something to mull over.

Esme’s owner did well to let Forever 21 off with a Facebook post. In other countries, the blind would lodge complaints for discrimination if Muslim cabbies ever refuse to take them. Our PM Lee himself is a fan of ‘inclusiveness’ as well, and unless something is done to address our attitudes and foster compassion towards the blind and their four-legged companions regardless of our religious inclinations, his speeches and tweets would be, well — wait for it — all bark and no bite.

Curious mynahs scaring off cowardly hawk

From ‘Hawk no match for pesky mynahs’, 14 Oct 2012, article by Jessica Lim, Sunday Times

Orchard Road’s hawk patrols have failed. It turns out that the bird of prey is no match for the pesky, noisy mynahs plaguing the shopping strip….The birds moved from that roosting spot to the area near Cathay Cineleisure Orchard and The Heeren, and an estimated 2,000 to 5,000 descend at dusk, especially between 6.45pm and 7pm.

People have complained about noise and droppings that strike pedestrians, cars and walkways. So far this year, the authorities have received 13 reports about the bird nuisance.

…Jurong Bird Park was happy to help, and provided a hawk and handler for three test runs from September last year. Alas, the big bird was found to be intimidated by the large flock of mynahs, said park general manager Raja Segran. He thinks there are other reasons why the idea could not take off, though some might suspect these are just a hawk’s excuses:

The mynahs’ new surroundings meant the hawk needed a long time to adjust;

The thick-canopied trees made it difficult for the bird handler to keep contact with the hawk;

Vehicles could knock down the hawk.

“The movement of the crowd and noise from vehicles along that stretch made the hawk very distracted,” he said. “The flow of traffic on Orchard Road made it too risky to fly our birds there.”

In the trials, which included releasing the hawk onto a tree, it was found that at first the hawk frightened the mynahs off. “But after a while, the mynahs were seen coming back to the tree where the hawk was, as if very curious to see what bird it was,” he said.

No surprise that neither NEA nor AVA was mentioned in this article, with the writer using the annoyingly vague ‘the authorities’, since none of these agencies actually want to take charge of mynahs. Pigeons (AVA) and crows (NEA) yes, but nobody wants their hands full with these rascally birds. In 2008, the NEA did shoot down some crows, but seemingly left most of the mynahs alone since these birds are not ‘in their purview’. Maybe the selective extermination of a bigger ‘competitor’ bird boosted up mynah numbers and made them more fearless since.  So what do Orchard Road tenants do then if the authorities have gone cuckoo over pest control? Take matters into their own hands, of course. By hiring a Jurong Bird Park veteran who trains hawks more for entertainment than stalking and eating smaller nuisance birds. You wouldn’t hire Sylvester the Cat to catch Tweety Bird would you?

You can’t blame the hawk or its handler really. Not only is the force of 5000 mynahs too much to bear, but having led a good life in captivity as a pet, mascot or performer for the Bird park, you would have no incentive to hunt down an unruly flock of squawking, pooping mynahs.  You would rather put on a ‘King of the Skies’ show and awe little children with your gliding prowess and extend your lethal talons ready to strike like you’re plucking a python out of a bush, even if you’ve done nothing with them other than clutching for dear life to some falconer dressed like Mulan.

Glam hawker

Falconry is apparently a noble, majestic sport of sorts that has existed since the Mongols, where raptors are trained to specifically hunt game or impress royal guests at a party. Today falconry is also employed as a natural pest control system, but no one even in medieval times could prepare a hawk for a thousand-strong army of swooping birds, creatures who have no qualms about stealing food from the Apex predators themselves or even go banzai on them on the streets. According to the article, there has been modest success of using hawks to chase off seagulls at a shopping mall in Exeter. Either our mynahs are a formidable guerilla force to be reckoned with, or hawks and their handlers can’t deal with the concrete jungle that is Orchard Road, a jungle where a black bird is king.

If poison, sonic devices, big birds or scarecrows don’t do the job, perhaps ‘the authorities’ should install giant fans in the vicinity of the birds’ roosting areas, which are known to sever bird heads every now and then. Alternatively, you could just take the underpass instead, just to avoid a uniquely Orchard Road weather forecast of Cloudy with a Chance of Droppings.

It’s a bird..

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