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Nature lovers, sign up to be the ‘official eyes and ears of the forest’

By Daphne Chuah, TODAY
10 July 2007

SINGAPORE - Fancy yourself a champion of wildlife and nature? Now, you can help stop poachers and other despoilers of our local parks and reservoirs.

Local non-profit group Nature Trekker Singapore is launching the Park Policing Programme (PPP) in collaboration with the National Parks Board (NParks).

It aims to get Singaporeans to report illegal activities they come across, such as the releasing of wildlife into the reservoirs and parks, poaching, bird-trapping, plucking of flowers and fishing in unauthorised areas — including netting tiny fish in rivers and canals.

“Those who sign up will be the official eyes and ears of the forest,” said Mr Ben Lee, the founder and head of Nature Trekker, adding that volunteers will also be urged to participate in organised policing trips to parks and nature reserves, so they can learn how the system works.

“The objective of PPP is to create a peaceful environment where nature can strive, survive and live in harmony. We want to reach out to as many people as possible, from working adults to students,” he said.

NParks, which last month urged Singaporeans not to release their pets and other caged animals into the nature reserves, will dispatch its rangers upon receiving volunteers’ reports and take appropriate action.

“NParks takes a serious view of such illegal activities. The nature reserves and parks are common places meant for the public to enjoy,” said Ms Sharon Chan, the assistant director of NPark’s Central Nature Reserve. “Removing flora and fauna from their natural habitat will deprive others of a chance to see our biodiversity.”

More than 300 people have been fined for fishing and capturing animals in Singapore’s nature reserves and parks since 2000. Under the Parks and Trees Act, anyone found guilty of poaching can be fined up to $50,000 and/or jailed up to six months.

Nature Trekker is looking to recruit some 300 volunteers for its first phase. Registration closes at the end of this month, and a briefing for volunteers will be held next month. Those interested can call 6300 6000 for details. - TODAY/fa

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