SINGAPORE — The National Parks Board (NParks) is investigating three men spotted poaching shellfish at the mudflats of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on Sunday (Dec 03).
Responding to TODAY’s queries on Tuesday (Dec 5), NParks’ acting group director for conservation Adrian Loo said it will “take appropriate action” once the probe on the trio’s illegal acts concludes, but did not elaborate.
The collected shellfish were returned to the mudflat that day after NParks officers - who were alerted to the incident - stopped the three men. They were caught on camera scooping the shellfish into a white plastic bag before that.
Mr Ben Lee, the founder of nature conservation group Nature Trekker, said he spotted the trio at about 5.20pm that day while he was conducting a guided tour.
Two NParks staff arrived about 30 to 45 minutes later and escorted the men out of the nature reserve, said Mr Lee.The men, dressed in t-shirts and bermudas, were seen picking items from the mudflat and placing them in a white plastic bag. Mr Lee snapped photos of the men and alerted the authorities to what was happening.
As of Monday (Dec 04), there have been seven Notices of Offence issued for poaching at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve this year. The majority of the cases are offences related to illegal fishing and possession or use of fishing gear, said an NParks spokesperson.
Under the Parks and Trees Act, no one is allowed to remove, capture, disturb or displace any plant or animal without authorisation. If convicted, an offender can be fined up to S$5,000 if the offences were committed within public parks or S$50,000 if the offences took place in the national parks and nature reserves.
Mr Lee said he was shocked and disappointed at what he saw and guessed the men were probably picking shellfish and crabs to eat or sell.
The immediate effect of the men’s actions were “not that great” as they appeared to be collecting a small amount of shellfish, which reproduce quite quickly, he said.
“The impact is great if (such poaching) is done extensively,” he said, adding that the authorities need to step in to prevent others from doing the same.
Mr Lee, who visits the nature reserve about four to eight times a month to conduct guided tours and teach others about wild bird migration, said he has seen a handful of illegal poaching cases at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in the past.
Some have tried to fish with trawl nets in chest-deep waters.
In 2015, he alerted the authorities to a group of people on a raft, pulling in a large net to check for fish.
Volunteers like himself can help NParks to keep a lookout for illegal activities, he said.
Members of the public should learn about activities prohibited in nature reserves, he added.
“A nature reserve is a place for the preservation and protection of wildlife and such illegal activity should not be allowed to happen. It’s a place where you leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs.”