SINGAPORE: Recent sightings of a destructive non-native bird species have alarmed some bird enthusiasts here, who have urged a relook of import policies for invasive species.
They fear that the Red-billed Quelea – sometimes referred to as “feathered locusts” as it damages crops and lives in huge flocks – will wreak environmental havoc by affecting native bird species here, if their numbers grow.
The bird is believed to have entered through the cage-bird trade, as it is found in Africa and is not a migratory species. It is considered the most abundant bird species in the world.
In the last two months, the Red-billed Quelea has been photographed at least twice here. Nature photographer Johnson Chua spotted it last month at Punggol Barat and sent the photo to Nature Society member Francis Yap, who sought the help of Dr Dieter Oschadleus from the University of Cape Town to identify the bird.
Mr Yap found another picture of the bird taken in March through his Facebook network. He then did some research and posted an article titled “World’s most destructive bird species now in Singapore” on the Nature Society’s Singapore Bird Group blog on Tuesday (May 12).
Calling for an import ban on the “environmentally and economically destructive” species, Mr Yap wrote that he has observed a drop in the number of native munias and weavers, after African grassland bird species including weavers, waxbills and queleas were released here in recent years.
He lauded the authorities’ efforts in urging people not to release animals in the lead-up to Vesak Day – the Operation No Release campaign will take place from tomorrow to the end of this month – but said the import of “dangerous species” should be banned in the first place by the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).
Imports of other alien species should be limited in the months leading up to Vesak Day, Mr Yap wrote, noting that quelea numbers have become “unstoppable” in their native land.