No Swift Breeding in World Heritage Site

No Swift Breeding in World Heritage Site


Chairman Local Government, Traffic Management & Environment


In view of the continuing lack of action against swiftlet farms in the George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site and the adjacent urban area, Penang Heritage Trust would like to bring to your urgent attention the new strain of deadly bird flu H7N9, and the deaths from H5N1 of thousands of swiftlets in Vietnam.

The population of farmed swiftlets in George Town is continuing to explode. There is still no regulation by authorities despite the State authorities saying that the swiftlet farms have to be out of the UNESCO WHS by the end of 2013. The deadline for the eradication of swiftlet farms from the WHS has been delayed since 2008.

It is of greater concern now that swiftlets are proved susceptible to the bird flu virus H5N1 and are being killed in their thousands in Vietnam, where the virus has also killed a five-year-old boy. (The Nation. Bangkok. April 12th 2013).This is extremely worrying news especially with the swiftlet population embedded in the human population here in George Town.

Penang Heritage Trust is also concerned that the new strain of deadly bird flu H7N9 is being ignored by authorities despite the fact that MPPP figures show 104 swiftlet farms in heritage houses within the the boundary of the World Heritage Site alone.

China is reportedly monitoring its bird migrations. Are the authorities here doing the same? Migratory birds are common in Penang and the island provides shelter and rest to many of them as they fly through. State, MPPP and GTWHI, along with the Veterinary Department and the Health Department, must not ignore concerns for the safety of this now thriving heritage city, its human residents, working population, and tourists who are filling hostels, hotels and restaurants.

The 1GP — Guidelines for Swiftlet Farming — state categorically that swiftlet farms must be at least 50m from any residence and should not be in any residential areas, near schools, playgrounds, clinics or hospitals. Our children and the elderly are especially at risk. The Guidelines also state that swiftlet farms must be at least 10km from airports. Swiftlets farms are visible alongside the runway of Penang International Airport and their swarms are often seen spiralling near or above the airport.

Penang Heritage Trust urges authorities to immediately begin the eradication of swiftlet farms from theGeorge Town WHS and then begin the regulation of the
swiftlet farming industry in Penang.

Khoo Salma Nasution
Penang Heritage Trust
15th April 2013