Week Four

Singaporeans versus wildlife

  1. Culling of wildlife due to attacks/complaints
    • Increase in wild boar attacks in urbanised residential areas
    • Monkey break-ins in residential areas
    • Rooster/chicken calls disturbance in residential areas
  2. Overpopulation of animals
    • Cat overpopulation among HDB areas
    • Wild boars overpopulating forests and destroying vegetation
    • Monkeys overpopulating parks and recreational areas, causing disturbances
  3. Others
    • Roadkills

Why we should protect our wildlife

Not many people realise that Singapore has around 392 native bird species – more than Germany’s 248 species; 324 butterfly species – compared to 59 native species found in the United Kingdom; and 122 dragonfly species – more than double the 57 species recorded in Britain.

With buildings ever encroaching into nature spaces, it is inevitable that people will encounter more wildlife in their backyards.

In many cases, though, just because people see animals such as long-tailed macaques and pangolins more often, their numbers may not have actually increased. Wildlife has simply become more visible. So we will have to re-learn how to live with wildlife in our midst.

– Lena Chan on ST


Assoc Prof Gumert, commenting on the varied response to the culling of different animals, attributes to anthropomorphism. “We love animals that are cute and cuddly and tend not to care about animals that are not. I think our disdain for culling is mostly driven by this, and not a general concern for life,” he added.

Things that have been done

  1. The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), has a current campaign aimed at resolving HWCs (ACRES, undated). Their efforts include:
    • Collaborating with Town Councils to organise events in places with a higher potential for HWCs. Such events aim to share information on how humans can exist peacefully with the local wildlife
    • Promoting and supporting projects that are undertaken by students that try to solve the underlying causes of HWCs
  2. Eco-Link@BKE, 2013 (https://graphics.straitstimes.com/STI/STIMEDIA/Interactives/2015/11/feature-ecolink-BKE-national-parks/index.html)
  3. The National Parks Board has intensified its biodiversity conservation efforts with a Nature Conservation Masterplan. This has four thrusts: conservation of key habitats; habitat enhancement, restoration and species recovery; applied research in conservation biology and planning; and community stewardship and outreach in nature.
  4. Cat-overpopulation: Many voluntary organisations stepping up to curb the reproduction rates of the community cats, to care, foster and prepare the cats for adoption etc.

That being said, it is concluded that the proposed/undergone solutions can only work if the community plays their part, and has the same vision.

C A S E  S T U D Y : E N G L A N D

The number of urban foxes in England has quadrupled in the past 20 years, said a study. It seems that the fox is to England what the macaque or wild boar is to Singapore.

Urban foxes in England are carriers of disease, and are known to enter homes and damage gardens. There have also been reports of foxes attacking children, although animal behaviourists there have said such incidents are rare.

But even as the authorities there grapple with how best to deal with the growing population of these adaptable animals, a charity, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, has published online a guide on how households can deal with foxes, with the help of wildlife experts from partner organisations. A key suggestion is for households to reduce the amount of food available to foxes.

These includes storing food waste in fox-proof containers or secure dustbins, not feeding foxes, and ensuring they do not get access to food put out for pets.

The BBC also reported that one of the most popular, and effective, ways of dealing with foxes is the motion-activated sprinkler, which repels the animals with a short but startling burst of water.


C A S E  S T U D Y : W E S T  A U S T R A L I A

Researchers studying grey reef sharks at Scott Reef. In Western Australia, 15 people have been killed by sharks since 2000. For swimmers or surfers on the beaches of Australia, sharks are not just a nuisance.

Encounters with these creatures can be dangerous, even fatal. The authorities have tried various measures to prevent further cases, such as by installing shark nets to prevent the predators from encroaching into areas where people swim.

But shark nets under trial in New South Wales ensnared other animals as well, resulting in an outcry from animal conservation groups, which called for the nets to be removed.

ABC News reported in January this year that between 2015 and last year, 133 target sharks were caught along with 615 non-target marine animals off beaches between the cities of Wollongong and Newcastle. Almost half of the animals that were caught perished in the netting.

Now the authorities are turning to technology to reduce encounters between sharks and humans.

Last week, it was announced that new technology in the form of drones will be deployed across beaches in Western Australia to better protect swimmers and surfers.

The drones, equipped with military-grade cameras, will be used to detect sharks. Data will then be transmitted to lifeguards or swimmers instantly.

News site Perth Now reported that unlike human spotters in helicopters, such cameras can “see” sharks on the surface and at depths down to 10m, observe a wider stretch of ocean, and are not hindered by waves or glare.

C A S E  S T U D Y : S I N G A P O R E

Monkeys visit Mr Russell Ng, 68, nearly every day at his home in Old Upper Thomson Road where he has lived for nine years. The long-tailed macaques come from the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, which is right across the road from Mr Ng’s house.

They scale the walls around his home in search of food left out by people in the residential estate and eateries nearby. However, the animals do not bother him as he has learnt to co-exist with them.

Initially, they did enter his home and stole food. But he has learnt not to leave food lying around. It is kept in a microwave oven instead of being left on the table.

Mr Ng also makes it a point to keep trash indoors instead of in the bin outside, until the garbage collector is due. “Some of our neighbours also use bungee cords to secure their bins, to make it less easy for the macaques to rummage around in,” says Mr Ng, who sits on the area’s residents’ committee.

He has also trained his three dogs, all poodle-crosses, to ignore the macaques. This helps prevent the macaques from exhibiting confrontational or aggressive behaviour whenever they feel challenged, he says.

“In the past, every time a monkey comes around, the dogs will keep barking. Now, it’s like they don’t even see the monkeys,” says Mr Ng, a retired businessman.


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