Birds shitting in food at hawker centres

From ‘Growing bird population is worrying’, 15 March 2018, ST Forum

(Ng Boon Soon): The increase in the bird population in Singapore is causing too much inconvenience and creating health hazards. Judging from the frequent bird encounters at hawker centres, coffee shops and canteens, the bird population has increased substantially.

It is not possible to order food and leave it unattended on the table.

Recently, I visited a hawker centre in Farrer Road and was shocked to see two mynahs perched on the metal rail directly above a stall owner cooking noodles.

My immediate concern was of bird droppings mixing with the food.

Another encounter was at Serangoon Garden hawker centre. We had some difficulty getting a clean table because many tables and seats were stained with bird droppings. When we asked the cleaner to do something, he said he had already cleaned the same table and seat many times.

Recently, when I visited my daughter at her primary school, I saw bird droppings on the tables and benches as well.

I believe the cleaners have done their job but the situation is happening too often. I am worried about the health of the children.

Something needs to be done.

In Orchard Road, one can hear the loud chirping of birds and see their droppings on the pavement. It is sad to see such an ugly sight in Singapore’s iconic shopping belt.

The Government needs to start a working group to resolve this persistent problem.

Yes, evil hovering mynah birds are a threat to national security, more so than disinformation, deliberate falsehoods and fake news. But it’s not just bird poop that’s causing everyone distress, it’s the way they sound in the morning, especially the call of the Asian koel. Not only are our children exposed to the risk of accidentally eating birdshit or getting infected by pandemic bird disease, they get distracted from their schoolwork because these tiny flying bastards make too much noise.

You want proof?

If we don’t set up a Committee of Avian Management to Safeguard Public Health, this is the scenario we’ll be facing, one that no SG secure or anti-terrorist drill can save humanity from.

Yes, students will be chased out of schools, their scalps and eyes pecked at by beaks sharp as machetes. Do you want to see this happening to our tourists in Orchard Road, their hair soaked white with shit and their eyeballs plucked out of their sockets as easily as these flying demons pulling worms out of the ground? Zombies in trains are nothing compared to this calamity.

Maybe this is an elite mastermind at work, someone who has deployed an army of birdie minions to hawker centres to poison us lower social economic status (SES) folk. Or maybe all this rampant shitting is their way of avenging the culling of their chicken brethren by AVA.  Let’s get rid of them all then. The crows, the pigeons, the koels, the two mynahs staring at us eating at hawker centres, even the fucking peacocks in Labrador Park. Let us have our walks in peace, without having to worry about shampooing our heads with Dettol thereafter or listen to their terrible twittering that sends chills down our spines, their chirpy conspiring to end the human race once and for all, to bring back the age of the dinosaurs from which they all descended from.

How about this, AVA? Installing a scarecrow in public areas if you don’t want to call in pest control. I know the perfect effigy, one with the face that will send a thousand crows scattering into the sun.


Asian koel too noisy

From ‘Better solution for noisy birds?’, 13 Dec 2017, ST Forum

(Lim Chye Hai): In recent months, my estate Tanjung Rhu has seen an increase in the population of Asian koels.

These birds’ powerful calls can be heard early in the morning, before dawn, and throughout the day.

I called the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority to highlight this issue two months ago. Its response was that the Asian koel is a protected species, so the agency can only prune the trees to remove the crow’s nest, where the koel lays its eggs. The problem has persisted without improvement to this day.

The birds’ calls have become a nuisance, especially when they start as early as 5am. The well-being of residents must not be compromised. Are there other effective ways to contain the Asian koels’ population?

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
                                                     –  Blackbird, the Beatles

For the sake of the ‘wellbeing’ of residents, stray chickens have been culled and pigeons are lured with poisoned bait (that end up killing curious dogs on a stroll). We complain about snakes invading our premises, wild boars terrorising children, yet conveniently forget that we are the ones tearing down forests to build estates and shopping malls and chasing our feathered friends out of their nests.

We bemoan a sterile concrete jungle yet make demands on the authorities to regulate the ‘powerful’ cries of a bird. Our steel offices are infused with greenery yet we view mating calls as a nuisance detrimental on our ‘wellbeing’. We think we can handle nature but in the end we still retreat to the snug comforts of our bed, huddling over our gadgets, gushing over our nature-themed wallpapers and pretending that the calls of the wild do not exist. Our 8 hours of sleep is paramount. More important than all the birds in the sky and all the worms in the earth.

The writer should be grateful that all he gets is a premature alarm. Some residents get pythons sneaking out of toilet bowls and trying to eat their pet birds. How about monkeys raiding your pantry. Would you rather deal with your neighbours’ shitty singing, or kids running amok in the void deck with their e-scooters or skateboards. In fact, according to NPARKS, as a brood parasite that lays its eggs in crows’ nests, the Asian koel has a role in keeping the crow population in check. So if you are lucky enough not to have crows randomly attacking you, you probably have this noisy koel to thank for an intact scalp and eyeballs.

I would rather the jarring noise of a cuckoo bird, than one coming out of an empty vessel.




24 noisy chickens culled by AVA

From ‘Culling of 24 chickens in Sin Ming ruffles feathers’, 2 Feb 2017, article by Toh Ee Ming, Today

As a debate flared up yesterday over free-ranging chickens that were put down by the authorities in the Sin Ming area, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) revealed that it received 250 complaints islandwide on free-ranging chickens last year, and they were mostly about noise-related nuisances caused by the birds.

…The authority also disclosed that it put down 24 chickens that were wandering around Thomson View and Blocks 452 to 454 Sin Ming Avenue, after getting 20 complaints last year from residents there, also mainly about noise.

Responding to queries from TODAY, the AVA added that the free-ranging chickens that are sometimes seen on mainland Singapore are not red junglefowl — an endangered species — though some may resemble them.

“Free-ranging chickens can pose a potential threat to public health, especially if their population is left unchecked. There is a likelihood of an incursion of bird flu into Singapore, as bird flu is endemic in the region,” the AVA said.

According to the AVA’s own FAQ,

It is rare for the bird flu virus to be transmitted from chickens to humans. Of all the bird flu virus strains, only the H5N1, H9N2, H7N7 and H7N9 (Shanghai 2013 strain) strains have been known to pass from chickens to humans.

Unless you’re the kind of sick pervert who sneaks up behind cockerels and sodomises them, the chances of anyone getting exposed and infected by bird flu from stray chickens is, by AVA’s own admission, rather low. So how is this poultry-cide even justified? Using this public health argument, these chickens are being put down with the same nonchalance as one does fogging to get rid of mosquitoes.

There was a time when chicken-stealing was a thing. With the demise of kampongs, having the occasional cock around serves as a nostalgic reminder of how simple life used to be. Now, with the authorities chick-hunting in response to complaints, all we have left to wake us up in the mornings is the metallic grumbling of the MRT train nearby.

So the weird neighbour with the noisy parrot that squawks ‘Fuck the PAP’ all day gets to keep his fowl-mouthed pet; while the free-as-a-bird chicken responding to nature’s call is slaughtered for being a nuisance and an indeterminate carrier of pathogens. Add one more bird to AVA’s kill-list, which also includes pigeons, but not crows (NEA) or mynahs (nobody’s business).

Thanks a lot, Sin Ming residents, now that the python in the woods has nothing to feed on, we have to be prepared to find them swimming around in our pools more often, waiting for a treat in the form of a juicy, plump baby perhaps.

Stray chickens spotted in Singapore

From ‘Stray chickens spotted wandering around several parts of Singapore’, 22 July 2015, article by Lee Min Kok, ST

Singapore may strike some as a concrete city, but stray chickens have been seen wandering around various parts of the island in recent months.

A concerned member of the public living in the Stirling View and Mei Ling Road neighbourhood in Queenstown had wrote in to Stomp recently to report several sightings of chickens in the neighbourhood.

She had highlighted the issue to the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) and the town council, but attempts to catch the birds were reportedly not successful. Stray chickens also appear to be thriving in the Fort Canning area.

According to Mr B. L. Koh, who goes on regular jogs in the vicinity, stray chickens can be spotted at three locations – near the Fort Canning Hotel, the Central Fire Station on Hill Street and the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple along Tank Road.

Unlike other flying birds like pigeons, crows and mynahs, chickens don’t shit on our cars or heads, and neither are they legally considered ‘pests’ that need to be culled. In fact, one particular species with a glorious flaming red comb is known as the Red Junglefowl, an endangered species. If there’s any ‘concern’ by the complainant it’s probably paranoia over bird flu, in which case, he or she should also sound the alarm on every flock of pecking pigeon that you can find in almost every neighbourhood. ESPECIALLY WITH LITTLE CHILDREN CHASING THEM ABOUT OH DEAR GOD!

In 1983, an ST forum writer lamented about his missing cockerel in the Chip Bee estate, whose ‘strident’ morning cry would bring some ‘kampung’ vibe to an otherwise staid concrete jungle, Mother Nature’s alarm clock that would make you arise with a smile rather than stumble about shit-faced grumpily reaching for the snooze button. The cock’s crow was welcomed as the ‘sweetest of nature’s melodies’, a sound that’s all but extinct today. Without cocks, we’d have to settle for the shrill buzz of crickets and lizard chirps, a creepy-crawlie orchestra to soothe our senses against the barrage of chugging engines, MRT trains and neighbours banging goddamn cutlery early in the morning.

Others didn’t take too kindly to the constant crowing, though. Still, it’s not like these chickens are grazing around HDB flats to the annoyance of humans. They’re not bothering anyone, not picking at leftovers in a hawker centre, or charging at little children, not attacking your Sheng Shiong plastic bag of groceries, so why the fowl mood? Aren’t we supposed to be a ‘City in a Garden’, where you can find the occasional otter family, monitor lizards, Lyssa zampas or even an owl in the Istana?

That video of chickens frolicking about on a grass patch was strangely therapeutic, and pity that some people fail to appreciate the simple joy of animals running wild, and complain to the authorities with a cock-and-bull story that we’re facing a chicken epidemic. Imagine an AVA officer chasing a squawking bird and failing miserably. Now that will go viral – I’m cocksure of it.

Liquid nitrogen cocktails not relevant anymore

From ‘Liquid nitrogen cocktails passe’, 21 Oct 2012, article by Melissa Kok, Sunday Lifestyle.

…In Singapore, liquid nitrogen cocktails – a popular novelty beverage two to three years ago – seem to be hard to find these days. SundayLife! contacted several leading bars and restaurants believed to have served cocktails prepared with liquid nitrogen but they said they had stopped serving such drinks a while ago, or had never served them.

The Tippling Club in Dempsey Hill used to serve cocktails that were chilled with liquid nitrogen instead of ice to keep flavours potent, such as their nitro-chilled dry martini, back in 2008. But its general manager Marcus Boyle, 30, says it stopped serving such cocktails about a year ago, long before the UK case happened because there was “basically no relevance” anymore.

…Mixologists use liquid nitrogen in small doses to keep cocktails chilled. Of course, there is also the novelty factor in serving a drink with swirls of white vapour wafting from the cocktail glass. Mr Mac Lee, 54, honorary president for the Association of Bartenders & Sommeliers Singapore, says bartenders here are not required to undergo formal training or be certified to serve drinks containing liquid nitrogen. In fact, he says many mixologists who incorporate the chemical in cocktails are self-taught or learn the art from fellow bartenders.

However, experienced bartenders say such cocktails are safe to drink, as long as the bartender is familiar with the chemical properties of liquid nitrogen, and knows how to prepare and serve it with care.

…It is unclear which government agency regulates the use of such chemicals in the preparation of food and beverage items. The National Environment Agency, which regulates food and beverage outlets, did not respond to SundayLife!’s queries by press time.

A spokesman for the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore, which oversees food safety, says nitrogen gas is a permitted food additive under the Food Regulations.

Heaven in a glass literally sends you to Heaven

The death-defying thrill that comes with consuming industrial refrigerants may lead to a comeback of the ‘nitro’ alcoholic beverage. Liquid nitrogen is the ‘fugu’ of alcoholic drinks, except that I would rather trust a certified chef who has trained for years dissecting poisoning fish than someone who claims to be a ‘molecular mixologist’ who may not even know offhand how many protons, neutrons and electrons the Nitrogen atom contains (I know it’s number 7 on the Periodic Table).  A ‘molecular mixologist’ sounds more accomplished than a ‘chemist’, though the closest the mixologist has probably come to conducting a proper science experiment is seeing litmus paper turn from blue to pink. He may not blow up a lab, but a novice may feed you something that will probably explode your intestines, like what almost happened to Gaby Scanlon. It would be the perfect way of assassinating someone important at a cocktail party.

Liquid nitrogen infused drinks is more spectacle than science, and I have to admit it looks pretty cool in a Sorcerer’s Apprentice sort of way. Who wouldn’t be tempted to sip from a glass that has chilly fumes swirling out of it? A smoky drink is mysterious, magical and alchemical all at the same time, and has been portrayed in fable and pop culture as Pandora’s elixir. If Man weren’t attracted to misty potions, Dr Jekyll wouldn’t have turned into Mr Hyde, witches would have nothing to brew, a ‘cauldron’ would just be a big ‘pot’ and Harry Potter would have been shortened to 3 movies instead of 7.

A life-changing aperitif

But can’t you achieve the same effect with dry ice, you say? Solid carbon dioxide has a sublimation point of -78.5 degrees Celsius, while liquid nitrogen ‘boils’ at -196 degrees, but I believe eating both can kill you anyway. Dry ice is probably cheaper, since you could get it for free whenever you buy ice-cream cakes from Swensens, and in fact some mixologists do use it for the same ‘misty’ effect. City Space’s resident ‘cocktail ARCHITECT’ uses dry ice in his ‘Bubble Tea’ concoction, which creates a ‘bubbling effect’ as well as keeping the cocktail chilled. (Side note: I’m quite a good sandwich ‘architect’ myself. I stack layers of food between bread without my ‘work’ collapsing). Not sure how safe this is, but you can get ‘burned’ as easily from biting cold as scorching heat. More ‘Bubble Lava’ than ‘Bubble Tea’, I think. The F1 in 2008 brought us TURBO SHOTS, which consists of ‘grenadine syrup, Midori, Baileys and vodka served with dry ice’. The only thing ‘turbo’ about this is how soon it’ll get you to the AnE if you gulp it down a bit too hastily.

Such an ‘experimental’ approach to the once humble profession of bartending gives new meaning to the term ‘cutting edge’ when you risk perforating your stomach. Bartenders no longer wipe glasses with the towel around their necks or discuss football with customers when they’re not preparing drinks, they’re toying with ‘flavour-enhancing’ inert gases and Frankenstein goo with fancy instruments modelled after those used in Dr Evil’s cryogenic laboratory. They’re taking the phrase ‘too cool for school’ rather too literally.

Soon they’ll be wearing labcoats instead of bowties, naming their bars after gas scientists like Robert Boyle (the Tippling club’s GM is called Marcus BOYLE. Coincidence?) or Fritz Haber, and instead of being the surrogate uncle that you can confide about marriage problems they’ve become as aloof as nuclear scientists at an alternative energy convention. If you’re the kind of mixologist who would rather play it safe but still wants loads of attention from the ‘It’ crowd, you can wow them by ‘garnishing’ your creations with expensive pretty jewels instead. Drinking the Jewel of Pangaea does seem pretty shameless of you, but at least you wouldn’t end up like the bad robot from Terminator 2 below:

Nothing like liquid nitrogen to break the ice

There haven’t been reports of people here having their guts ripped apart by dangerous cocktails so far, though bartenders playing fast and loose with chemicals and describing themselves as ‘architects’, ‘mixologists’ or  ‘consultants’ needs to be looked into. How about a ‘cocktail pharmacologist/chemist’ for a change, you know, someone who actually knows what is safe enough to entertain your taste buds but not toxic enough to send you to hospital?  What’s wrong with being a good ol’ fashioned blue-collar bartender like Ted Danson’s Sam from Cheers, a man who handles beer mugs and not test tubes and liquid nitrogen generators that look like high-end ice-kacang machines? A man who’s committed to serving you an actual drink and not an entry for a primary school science competition?

Cheers to non-smoky beer

Tippling Club’s Nitro Martini has been described as a ‘nice’ punch in the face. If I wanted that feeling I’d run into a wall without having to pay a single cent. A variation of the Tiger Crystal beer cocktail ‘cooked’ with liquid nitrogen is supposed to deliver a ‘mega brain freeze’. Purveyors relish such frosty drinks as BDSM fans enjoy having hot wax dripped down their nether regions. I would never trust anything that is described as ‘cooked’ in quotation marks. It’s like drinking ‘chlorinated’ water, or driving a ‘safe’ car. Unless you’re into that sort of thing, like the JACKASS crew.  Perhaps this little medical nugget will turn people off liquid nitrogen for good: It’s often used for the removal of GENITAL WARTS. So before your dip your nose in a ‘little bit of heaven’, think of the crackling fizz that comes with the application of the same ingredient to mushroom-like growths around someone’s anus.

If you want the kick of a brain freeze without losing a vital organ, have a Mr Slurpee instead.

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..

Dog passed away, not dead

From ‘Spare pet owners the D word’, 11 Jan 2011, ST Forum online. Thanks to quirkyhill for the link

(Elizabeth Chiona): RECENTLY, my dog passed away and I had to deregister it on the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority website.

On the site, under the given options for reasons for deregistration, the first one is the word “dead” followed by others such as “lost”, “stolen” and so on.

We are already feeling very sad over the loss of our dog and it is insensitive to have such a word on the site. Is it possible to change it to something like “passed on”?

This would really go a long way towards helping dog owners get over their grief.

I’ve heard of the F-words and N-words but now we have a new ‘word that shall not be spoken’ addition to the hush list. As a pet owner bereaved of two dogs myself, it’s only natural to use trauma-softening terms like ‘gone to heaven’ or simply ‘gone’ in one’s speech, though ‘passed on’ is stretching it as it’s a transitional phrase mostly used for human beings. Less so on a government website, where one can’t imagine any other word simpler or more appropriate than ‘dead’. Aside from describing the status of loved ones, people somehow have no qualms about using D words loosely in everyday speech without realising it. I’m a dead duck. You will be the death of me. You’re dead wrong. I almost died. Die-die must finish. One doesn’t say ‘He’ll pass away if he loses the engagement ring’, or ‘I forgot my wife’s birthday. I’m so passed on’.

As for coming to terms with pet loss,  or losing anyone for that matter, perhaps nothing achieves this better than acknowledging death in the face, instead of sugar coating an event that everyone reaches at some point. One can’t just blame solely a checkbox on a website for hampering the process of recovery. Seeing someone walk a similar breed at the park, a face on a can of Pedigree, a favourite toy especially, are all triggers that one would be forced to face sooner or later.  The last thing on any bereaved pet owner’s mind after a recent passing of their dog would be to log on to the AVA website, and honestly, whether it ‘d@#%’, ‘passed away’ or ‘went to doggie heaven’, the very act of deregistering itself is an upsetting reminder to most people. Apparently some human beings would rather ‘die’ than ‘pass away’ too, as seen in this letter dated 27 Sept 2004, Today. I have my doubts about the writer’s assertion that ‘ladies’ and ‘gentlemen’ are euphemisms, unless there’s something really unpleasant about being called a woman or a man.