He's No Quack

An Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) officer shows Challenge he is the real deal when it comes to examining live poultry at our borders.
Alex rises at 3am on most mornings and is in his office before 5am to prepare for the day ahead.

Everyday before the rooster crows, AVA officer Alex Teo is already in his office at the Tuas Checkpoint. Slipping on a brand new isolation gown meant to protect him from infection, the Senior Technical Officer (Border Control) gets ready to inspect the thousands of imported live chickens and ducks that will reach the checkpoint at 5am.

Soon enough, the first five of many trucks to come – each of them carrying about 1,400 to 4,500 live birds – pull into the compound. Undeterred by the emanating pong, Alex walks up to one truck and peers into a crate of quacking ducks. With his trusty yellow torch, he checks for birds that have fallen sick or died during the long hours on the road from Malaysia. If an estimated 3% of the birds are dead, that could signal a disease outbreak, he says.

Alex checks that the eggs have been individually labelled with a code that identifies the farm source.

After seven years on the job, he has built camaraderie with the truck drivers (“when we respect them, they will respect us”). They communicate in Malay, trading friendly banter. The moment he gives an approving nod or a wave of his torch, the drivers get the cue that their trucks have been cleared and proceed to drive off.

“I took up this job [as it is] not stagnant or monotonous,” says the energetic officer, who left his desk job at the Singapore Police Force to become an inspection officer in 2004. In a typical day, he inspects about 100 trucks, including those carrying eggs from Malaysia.

So passionate is Alex about his work that even after he has knocked off (on most days, he finishes around 1pm), he still volunteers to be on 24-hour standby for colleagues who need assistance or to inspect late consignments. Having time off to rest, he says, is “immaterial”.

The 50-year-old also readily sacrifices sleep for his job. During a case of animal smuggling, he was called in at 2am to conduct investigations with Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officers from the Tuas Checkpoint. Adrenalin-filled moments like these is another reason why Alex lives for his job.

Alex keeps his eyes peeled for sick and dead birds. A sign that he looks out for? Bird legs sticking up in the air.

The father of two also relishes new challenges. By the time you read this, Alex would already have moved from his duties at the Tuas Checkpoint and started work at the Changi Animal and Plant Quarantine Station. This time, he is inspecting animal imports that go through Changi Airport.

“[I want to live] a life full of challenges, curiosity and adventures,” he tells Challenge chirpily.

    Mar 12, 2013
    Heng Yishi
    Zakaria Zainal
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