Common chickens or red junglefowl?

Feb 03, 2017 06.27PM |
 

by Wan Ting Koh

RED junglefowls, the endangered ascendant of chickens, do dwell in mainland Singapore alongside common chickens, contrary to reports saying that only common wild chickens roam the lands here.

The evidence lies in a 2015 documentary about Singapore’s wildlife, narrated by renown naturalist David Attenborough. Video footage of the documentary shows a flock of wild red junglefowl foraging in the grassy areas in Sin Ming.

Chickens made MSM headlines recently after a TODAY report on Feb 1 said that the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) had the chickens in the Sin Ming area culled, following complaints from residents over the last year. A total of 20 complaints had been filed, most relating to the noise the chickens caused.

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The 24 doomed chickens were found in Thomson View and Blocks 452 to 454 Sin Ming Avenue, and were NOT red junglefowl, the TODAY report had said.

A separate TODAY report, referring to a response by the AVA, said that the free-ranging chickens that are sometimes seen on mainland Singapore are not red junglefowl, even though they might look like them. An ST report quoted the authorities as saying that purebred red junglefowls are known to occur only in Pulau Ubin and the Western Catchment area.

But the documentary shows otherwise.

The video, which can be found on Toggle, is the second episode of Wild City, a documentary showcasing the wildlife in Singapore’s urban areas. Slightly after the 17-minute mark, the video shows a flock of birds which resemble chickens foraging in the grass beside a road in Sin Ming. These birds have the distinctive traits that identify them as red junglefowl: Grey legs and white ear patches, as compared to common chickens which usually have yellow legs.

The birds in the video are also caught in flight, something that common chickens are unable to do. In fact, the TODAY article had quoted resident who complained about the chickens flying. Ms Stella Hosoucheng, a 63-year-old who works in customer service, had said: “The noise and they fly! I can hear them crowing early in the morning… and obviously I don’t like them.”

It sounds as if there were red junglefowl in Sin Ming. So were the culled birds really junglefowl or common chickens? We have contacted AVA to ask for their response to this issue.

As for the ill-fated chickens, they were “humanely euthanised” as relocation options were not available in land-scarce Singapore, AVA said.

News about the culled chickens sparked a wave of protests online, with most calling the killing heartless and unnecessary.

Facebook user Azlina Sulaiman‎ said on AVA’s Facebook page that the G’s reason for culling the chickens was “pathetic”.

Others turned the spotlight on the residents who complained, saying that the chickens weren’t really a threat to the community. Facebook user Jeremy Shiu said that the complaints showed a lack of care toward the environment and nature.

Others asked why the chickens were not simply relocated. Facebook user Yen Chua said that the chickens could have been moved to “one of our many islands”.

However, an expert has said that from an environmental perspective, AVA did the right thing. Assistant Professor Frank Rheindt, from the National University of Singapore’s department of biological sciences said that it would not be feasible to move the chickens to Pulau Ubin – if they were common chickens – as they might have contaminated the “gene pool of the wild stock of junglefowl” there.

 

You can watch the full video here:

 

 

Featured image Red Junglefowl. by Flickr user Jason ThompsonCC BY-SA 2.0

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