The news that visitors to Changi Beach were digging up marine life in the intertidal zones was disheartening (NParks taking steps to stop manhandling of marine life, June 16).
Did Singapore, as a supposedly green society, fail to educate the masses about animal protection and enforce the age-old dictum for visitors to natural sites to “leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but memories”?
Perhaps Singapore’s wildlife protection legislation can be modelled after Australia’s powerful environmental instrument, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
The Act is quite extensive, covering native animal protection, fishing limits, reduction and control of non-native flora and fauna, and environmental assessments and approvals.
Furthermore, illegal interference and disturbance of native wildlife – flora or fauna – carry harsh penalties for the offender, including heavy fines and jail time.
If the incidents at Changi Beach had occurred in Australia, they would have sparked widespread public outrage and prompted law enforcement action.
However, education is a critical component in treating the core cause of this problem. To change social attitudes, effective education and public awareness should be combined with enforcement.
Unfortunately, it appears that enforcement is mainly carried out in Singapore when public awareness is ineffective in bringing about change in social responsibility (for example, tray clearing at hawker centres).
Environmental protection and awareness should be incorporated into school curricula. This could include education on Singapore’s native animal species, the need to control non-native wildlife and environmental awareness.
Parents should model socially acceptable behaviour for their children by refraining from engaging in irresponsible behaviour such as interfering with or removing wildlife.
Human activity and intrusion are putting a greater strain on biodiversity and natural spaces now.
Let us all work together to protect these natural assets for future generations before they are lost forever.