Town council working closely with NEA, NParks to prevent birds from eating leftover food at Tekka Market

Submitted by Stomper Mei

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Tanjong Pagar Town Council is working closely with the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the National Parks Board (NParks) following feedback about birds eating leftover food at Tekka Market.

Stomper Mei was horrified when she saw birds feasting on food left on the table on Oct 21 at 2pm and shared photos with Stomp.

"This was the scene at the hawker centre after the lunch crowd thinned," Mei said.

"It's really unhygienic and unhealthy for those who eat here.

"Sometimes, I even see these birds perched above the stalls as food is being prepared. That is horrifying to me.

"I'm worried about the contamination of food as this presents a real danger to the patrons' health."

In response to a Stomp query, a spokesman for Tanjong Pagar Town Council said it has been actively taking appropriate measures to control the bird issue at all their markets, including Tekka Market.

"As this issue involves several stakeholders, we are working closely with the NEA, NParks and KK Friendly Market Association, also known as the Hawkers' Association, on this matter.

"As the birds are attracted to the food waste left behind on the tables by the patrons, we are working with KK Friendly Market Association to help to ensure that their workers clear the tables promptly so that no food waste is left to attract the birds."

The spokesman added that the town council is also working with the NEA to talk to the table cleaners to ensure that  they carry out their table cleaning diligently so that the food waste that are attracting the birds can be reduced.

"NParks is also partnering with the town council to educate the patrons and, where necessary, carry out enforcement against illegal feeding of birds in the vicinity," said the spokesman.

"The town council has carried out bird proofing measures in Tekka Centre by installing bird spikes and bird netting to deter the birds from hovering around the market and food centre."

A spokesman for the NEA also responded and said that the NEA and town councils have undertaken several initiatives to deal with bird-related issues at hawker centres.

NEA said that bird prevention measures, such as bird spikes and stainless steel nylon coated wire, have been put in place at some hawker centres, to prevent birds from perching on the ceiling beams.

"As for Tekka Market, the town council has installed bird spikes at the dining areas, bird netting at the open courtyard and wire-mesh at the awnings, added the NEA spokesman.

"NEA has also reminded the Hawkers’ Association and their appointed table-cleaning contractor to increase the frequency of table cleaning."

NEA reminded patrons that they can play a part in maintaining the cleanliness of hawker centres too.

For instance, patrons can help by not leaving food scraps or soiled tissue paper on the tables, and returning all used crockery and trays to keep the table clean for the next patron.

Food that could have been bought as takeaways from other food outlets, but eaten at hawker centres, should be disposed of properly, and if unfinished, they should be thrown into the rubbish bins found within hawker centres.

Mr How Choon Beng, Director of NParks, also said in a statement that rock pigeons (Columba livia) are not native birds and are an invasive species in Singapore.

Mr How added that their droppings dirty the environment, are unhygienic and cause disamenities like the soiling of clothes.

Leftover food from pigeon feeding may attract other pests, like rats, that carry diseases and pose a risk to public health.

"NParks takes a science-based approach towards the management of invasive bird species," said Mr How.

"This requires an approach incorporating the removal of food sources made available by humans, habitat modification, population control strategies such as culling, and studies to understand the population ecology of the birds such as their roosting patterns and movements.

"This includes proper waste management, surveillance and bird management operations, public education against feeding and littering, and enforcement against pigeon feeders and litterbugs.

"Through research and population modelling, we have found that intentional feeding and poor food waste management, are the main causes for growth in the population of these birds."

He added that the public can help to mitigate population growth and congregation issues by not feeding birds and disposing of food scraps properly.