photo; wikimedia.org

Active measures taken to educate public on how to react to wildlife

Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang, Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC had asked the Minister for National Development, whether the Ministry will consider making it mandatory to educate prospective or current residents of ‘nature-inspired’ developments on the appropriate response to wildlife sighted in their areas and why members of the public should not feed wildlife.

In his response, Minister for National Development, Lawrence Wong wrote that it is important to carefully manage human-wildlife interactions to preserve Singapore’s wildlife.

Agencies like NParks and AVA are already taking active measures to do so:

  1. NParks organizes biodiversity programs like the Festival of Biodiversity and Community in Nature initiatives. Taken as a whole, these programs help to generate public awareness of, and appreciation for, our native wildlife.
Pangolin / photo: nparks.gov.sg.jpg
Pangolin / photo: nparks.gov.sg.jpg
  1. Agencies disseminate guidelines on how residents can minimise potential human-wildlife conflict, particularly in residential districts close to nature areas. For example, the guidelines touch on proper methods of securing trash bins and keeping food out of sight. Moreover, AVA officers conduct walkabouts in areas where residents have faced issues relating to animal nuisance. AVA officers also attend meetings to address residents’ concerns in these areas.
  2. NParks conducts specific outreach activities to discourage animal feeding. These include distributing advisory pamphlets to residents, conducting workshops for school children, and displaying prominent signage against wildlife feeding in parks and nature reserves.
Young students learn about our rich natural heritage in the Nature Keeper Programme / photo: nparks.gov.sg
Young students learn about our rich natural heritage in the Nature Keeper Programme / photo: nparks.gov.sg

Mr Wong explained that most residents who live close to nature areas behave very responsibly, have made adjustments, and appreciate the wildlife as part of their living environment.

NEL Lime butterfly / photo: nparks.gov.sg
NEL Lime butterfly / photo: nparks.gov.sg

But there will always be a small minority who persist in inappropriate behaviors like feeding, he continued, in these cases, a more targeted approach which may include official warnings or enforcement action is necessary.

However, it has been noted that the authorities somehow would overreact to resident complaints and would take extreme measures to resolve the matter. Such as the case of monkeys being trapped at Bukit Timah hill. It is only when non-government organisations like ACRES and other animal groups are involved, that the animal is not harmed. This was highlighted in a symposium in 2013.

Read: More education and legislation for animal welfare

The Minister had not answered the question of why members of the public should not feed wildlife but other sources explained that some of the reasons of the prohibition are:

  1. The increase in local concentrated wildlife population due to artificial feeding can promote the transfer of disease among animals or between animals and humans.
  2. Feeding can also alter animal behavior that the animals routinely travel in larger groups, which can make disease transmission between animals more likely.
  3. Artificial feeding can lead to animals aggressively seeking out food from people, sometimes resulting in injury.
  4. In public spaces, the congregation of animals caused by feeding can result in them being considered pests.