for National Geographic News
Ripping apart garbage bags, rummaging through leftovers, scavenging cafés and food stands, crows have earned the enmity of sanitation- obsessed Singaporeans. The tiny Asian island nation is infamous for its strict rules to promote cleanliness, including a ban on most chewing gum in public places.
And when it comes to crows, neatness isn't the only concern, as dive-bombings have been known to leave Singaporeans smarting.
But the birds aren't the ones drawing blood.
In 2006, at the invitation of the government, volunteers from the Singapore Gun Club culled approximately 1,025 crows—down slightly from 2005's tally of 1,650. The club's highest annual tally was 14,370 in 2001.
The official culling program began in 1973. When traps and poison failed to work, shooting became the preferred method for controlling the crow population. At first military marksmen were used, but in 1982 the Ministry of the Environment invited Singapore Gun Club members to take their best shots at the birds.
Due to strict gun regulations, few Singaporeans own firearms, so club members were the only private citizens in the country that authorities could turn to for help.
For Singaporean shooting enthusiasts tired of blasting clay targets, the crow hunts are a challenging test of their skills and a service valued by the locals. As an added bonus, the government supplies ammunition free of charge.
Armed with double-barrel shotguns, gun club members hunt crows almost anywhere: parks, harbors, airports, and even apartment blocks.
Today Singapore's National Environment Agency employs a for-profit security company as well as the gun-club volunteers to kill the birds.
And from the government's point of view, it seems to be working.
"The crow population in Singapore is currently estimated to be at a manageable level of 10,000, as compared to a population of 120,000 in 2001," said an agency spokesperson, who requested anonymity to avoid taking credit for preparing the culling data, which was done by her department as a whole.
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