Thursday, July 15, 2010

Malaysia Swiftlet Industry Guidelines (1GP)

On Monday, July 12th, the Malaysian government issued the much anticipated Swiftlet Industry Guidelines (1GP). However, many questions remain on what effect these new rules will have on the industry.

With regard to urban swiftlet farms, 1GP states, "Premises of these birds shall be located at least 10m from any fully residential buildings. The operation of heritage buildings for these swiftlets ranching should be subjected to conditions by relevant authorities."

What is the meaning of "fully residential"? What are the specifics of the 10m rule? It will be up to the Penang State government to interpret these guidelines and to enforce the rules they set out.

As Penang officials take the necessary time to develop a concrete plan for swiftlet farming in the state, we implore them to consider the health and safety of every resident and visitor of Penang, by moving the farms away from our homes, businesses, schools, restaurants, hotels, and into agricultural areas where the rural communities of Penang can benefit.

Please see the following articles regarding 1GP:

Penang swiftlet industry needs a proper nest

Govt announces new guidelines for swiftlet farmers

NGO seeks swift answer to Penang swiftlet issue

Swiftlet guidelines in place

Swiftlet Industry Players Urged To Follow Guideline

Swiftlet breeders given ultimatum

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Swiftlet houses are creeping into more and more neighborhoods

Please click here for the Star article

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Video of swiftlets taking over George Town

Swiftlets are taking over homes and businesses in George Town, forcing residents and other stakeholders out of the city. If regulation and enforcement on the swiftlet farming industry are not implemented soon, George Town will become a Bird Town.

We implore the government to move swiftlet farms to agricultural areas where the industry can benefit the rural areas of Malaysia.

Tourism Industry Under Threat in Penang

With July 7th nearing, the 2nd anniversary of George Town's listing as a UNESCO World Heritage site, we are again reminded of the risks of rampant swiftlet farming in George Town. If regulations and enforcement are not implemented soon, George Town could lose its UNESCO status, causing a significant blow to the island's tourism industry, which will have devastating effects on Penang's overall economy.

Please see the recent articles on the swiftlet issue here and here from NST and Aliran on June 23, 2010.

Please also see the recent article here from MalaysiaKini on June 23, 2010 (posted below for those without an account):

George Town heritage listing threatened by swiftlets
Susan Loone | Jun 23, 10 3:26pm

George Town’s World Heritage Listing is at risk from the burgeoning swiftlet breeding industry, said Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) trustee Mohammad Anwar Fazal Mohammed.

Anwar, a former Asia-Pacific regional advisor on Urban Governance for the United Nations, said the industry had become “preposterous and intolerable”.

He said that the flourishing industry now poses very serious health, social and heritage problems.

“It is a flagrant dereliction of duty by the authorities to allow the situation to continue,” said Anwar (left), who is also vice-chairperson of environmental NGO, Sahabat Alam Malaysia.

“The proposed guidelines must be quickly made public and discussed by the stakeholders most affected, especially the local neighborhood and community,” he added.

Anwar said while it was true that swiftlet breeding is an immensely lucrative industry, it should be very strictly licensed and their location should be only in designated or approved areas .

“Just as we have Free Trade Zones, industrial areas and special areas for pig farms, the authorities could proactively designate areas ,and set up an agency that regulates and monitors this systematically,” he suggested.

Feds yet to provide guidelines

Two years ago on July 7, George Town was listed as a World Heritage site, and the state government had declared the same day as a state holiday effective this year.

The issue of swiftlets has risen as civil society ponders how the state would manage the problem, with tourists being invited to attend a month-long George Town Heritage Festival in July which plans to showcase about 80 arts and cultural events.

The problem has not gone unnoticed by the authorities as George Town World Heritage office assistant general manager Maimunah Mohd Sharif had reportedly stated that the swiftlet industry posed a conflict to the World Heritage listing, and should be relocated.

Penang Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow (right) had said that the moratorium on swiftlet farming should not be taken as a sign that the state government is allowing the activity in urban areas.

He said the moratorium has been extended three times as the state is still waiting for the national guidelines on the industry from the Agriculture Department and the Veterinary Services Department.

Chow, who is also Tanjung parliamentarian, added that the state recognises the swiftlet farming industry as a revenue earning trade but it should be done properly and is mulling over the idea of moving the industry out of urban areas such as George Town.

Extend moratorium, urges group

Meanwhile, PHT council member Rebecca Duckett has urged the state to extend the moratorium on swiftlet breeding so that operators cannot start any new farms in George Town.

The moratorium was set up to halt the proliferation of swiftlet houses in George Town, not as an open bill for them to proliferate freely, said Duckett.

“The breeders are openly setting up new farms all over George Town; by condoning and allowing this to happen the state Government and municipal councils accept that they are responsible for any negative impact on public health and environment,” she added.

Duckett requested that the state creates a heft annual tax to be paid by each individual urban swiftlet farm until they have moved from the urban areas of George Town on or before the deadline set by the state government.

“Laws are being enforced by the state government on developers, residents and landlords that are trying to revitalise George Town as a residential, cultural, heritage and tourist hub, yet swiftlet farms are being allowed to proliferate freely, beyond the realms of law,” she said.

“The state government must act with a balanced hand,” she stressed.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Sabah government has banned swiftlet houses from cities

Click here and here for details

The sound of a swiftlet house

Have you walked around George Town lately and heard a loud chirping sound? You can hear the noise at almost every block, day and night. Swiftlet operators blast the recorded bird calls from speakers on top of their swiftlet houses to attract the birds.

Can you imagine if you lived next door to one of these houses? Listen here:

Stop the dangerous spread of swiftlet houses in George Town!

We are the residents, business owners, workers, students, and visitors of George Town and we do not want swiftlet farms in an urban area near our homes, our businesses, our schools, and our favourite restaurants.

Did you know that there are over 300 swiftlet farms operating in shophouses throughout George Town right now? The majority do not have any license to run such a business in George Town.

If you look closer at many of the ‘restored’ shophouses, you will realize that on the second floor, behind the pretty facade, hides the workings of a swiftlet farm. Swiftlet farmers buy or rent properties in George Town because it is more affordable then building a swiftlet farm in an agricultural area. When they move in, they rip out original windows and doors, block up the openings, tear down internal walls, set up a sprinkler system and buckets of water, put up planks with grooves for the birds to cling to, and 'restore' the facade of the house to hide the unlicensed operation.
When swiftlet farms take over shophouses in George Town, they bring noise, smell, property damage, and unsanitary conditions.

Are your children safe?

• Swiftlet houses carry the potential to spread disease through viruses carried by sick birds. Dr. Fadzilah Aini Abdul Kadir, the Director of Veterinary Services for the Malaysian federal government, issued a report entitled, "Good Animal Husbandry Practice (GAHP) for Swiftlets", which lists diseases carried by swiftlets. Please see page 34 of 42 here.
• Swiftlet houses carry the potential to spread disease from bird droppings within an enclosed area and sewage dumped into city drains. Dried bird droppings may become airborne and carry Cryptococcus, which can cause lung infections.
• Swiftlet houses may have pools of stagnant water resulting from indoor sprinklers. These errant houses are breeding grounds for mosquitoes, including Aedes mosquitoes, which spread dengue fever.

Is your business or investment safe from going to the birds?

• Swiftlet houses prevent a healthy environment, which business owners need to operate a successful restaurant, hotel, shop, and any other business in George Town.
• Swiftlet houses in shophouses cause water damage to adjoining properties, decreasing the market values of homes and businesses.
• Swiftlet houses create significant noise pollution by setting up speakers to blare bird calls day and night to attract swiftlets. That sound is not natural and causes sleepless nights for residents and visitors.
• Swiftlet houses create a horrible smell from hundreds of birds in a confined area of one shophouse. This smell drives customers and residents away. Businesses will soon follow.
• Swiftlet houses in shophouses in the heritage zone of George Town may result in the city losing its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site. This will do irreparable damage to Penang’s tourism industry, property values, and future development.

We need your help!

Federal lawmakers are now in discussions to issue Swiftlet Industry Guidelines (1GP) for Malaysia. To keep your family safe and your business successful, 1GP must clearly state that swiftlet houses should not be allowed in urban and residential areas.

Please call or email your government representatives as soon as possible to voice your concern and inform him/her that you do not want swiftlet houses in George Town (please click on the Contact Information link on the sidebar).

You can also follow this short message to make your appeal:

Swiftlet houses do not belong in urban and residential areas. Birds and their droppings are a menace to the health and safety of the people. The swiftlet houses in urban areas also cause damage to adjoining properties and create noise pollution that negatively affects businesses. We appeal to you to ensure our safety and the long-term sustainable future of George Town as a UNESCO World Heritage site. We appeal to you to ensure long-term benefit to all in George Town. Swiftlet farming belongs in agricultural areas where it can benefit the rural communities of Malaysia.

We also need your help to inform the public of the dangers of swiftlet houses in George Town. Please help us with the following:

1. Join this blog as a follower to show your support for this campaign.
2. Write to newspapers and send them your photos too. National or Local, English or Chinese or Tamil or Malay (please click on the Contact Information link on the sidebar)
3. Speak to your family, friends, and co-workers about this issue. And share this blog!
4. Email us addresses of swiftlet houses in George Town (if possible, please include pictures and a description of what business front is operating there).
5. Join the iGeorgeTown Facebook Cause called "Why George Town, Penang needs our attention".
6. Share your stories and pictures with us at:

We want to be clear that we do not want to ban swiftlet farming in Malaysia. We want swiftlet farming banned only from urban and residential areas, to ensure the safety of the residents and visitors of Malaysia. Swiftlet operations should only be allowed in agricultural areas where it can benefit the rural communities of Malaysia.

An anonymous person sent the following information to

Email sent from a concerned resident of George Town to

Are there any building laws or guidelines set by UNESCO in order to keep our UNESCO listing? This is in the core zone. I live here with my family. We are law abiding citizens. Are we not entitled to basic public health laws? Who is responsible if there is a death from bird flu or any of the diseases birds carry? Where is the enforcement needed to protect the UNESCO listing that should benefit everyone? Where is the Ministry of Health to protect us from the possibility of a bird flu epidemic? Is the Government willing to sacrifice our lives?