ACRES: Removal of wildlife not the solution, science-based approaches should be considered in handling human-wildlife issues

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) in a Facebook post on Monday (23 November) raised several concerns regarding the recent public survey on the management of wildlife, including regulating the wildlife population.

In its post, titled “Should wildlife stay or go? – science or opinions matter?”, ACRES first asked if wildlife should be managed based on public opinion only.

ACRES cited the Minister for National Development Desmond Lee, who shared during a human-wildlife conflict conference in 2019 that Singaporeans have to expect the increase of frequency of human-wildlife interactions and conflict as their homes are built next to many of their natural areas.

As such, the animal management strategies with a science-based approach can help them design more targeted and effective interventions to mitigate the human-wildlife conflicts, it said, citing Mr Lee.

The next concern ACRES raised was in response to a question it asked residents on regulating wildlife population, which seems contrary to the plan of turning Singapore into a biophilic city.

“When we ask residents if they are okay with “regulating the numbers”, what does that mean? Have scientific studies proved that we have an overpopulation of roosters and wild pigs?

The ACRES also addressed concerns about what will happen to wild animals if they are relocated or removed.

“Most often, it is proven that removal is not a solution as we enhance habitats more, green the spaces and fragment habitats through development,” it noted, referring to ACRES’s past experience of handling cases involving wildlife in distress, human-wildlife interactions, and other rescue or mitigation measures.

It continued, “Removal or reduction of the population (through humane measures first) should only be considered if there are studies to prove that we have an overpopulation and analyses to show what is the carrying capacity to which the population needs to be managed.”

Acknowledging that there is a wild boar problem in Pasir Ris, the group reasoned that “different developments have fragmented their habitats” and “feeding of wild boars in Pasir Ris and Lor Halus have made these boars associate humans with food”.

It thus suggested that stronger enforcement is needed on the feeding ban — otherwise, “at the end of the day, only the animals pay the price being labelled as ‘aggressive’, removed and culled.”

Clearing forests inevitably displaces animals

Before ending its post, ACRES also cautioned that “clearing forests inevitably displaces animals”.

“Site-specific measures alone are insufficient … As a small island, we have to look at the bigger picture, at connectivity around the site.

“This requires planning at an early level (master planning) and inter-agency collaborations to prioritize these issues compared to placing focus only on people’s needs. (housing, transport and amenities),” it said.

“As ACRES and other nature groups are being progressively engaged by agencies on nature-themed developments, we also have to ask ourselves – are we, as a community truly ready to embrace all wildlife as biodiversity? Are we truly empowered with knowledge on wildlife etiquette when we sight wild animals? Or are we only excited about flowers, birds and butterflies?” ACRES added.

ACRES’ article followed media reports on a 50-year-old woman being attacked by a wild boar at Sungei Api Api Park on 17 November.

The incident happened around 9.30pm and the woman was with her husband at the park off Pasir Ris Drive 3 when a wild boar charged at her and knocked her down.

As a result, she suffered lacerations on her left leg and face.

Following this incident, a survey called Survey on Wild Animals in Pasir Ris was initiated by Pasir Ris West Citizens’ Consultative Committee (CCC) to ask the residents’ opinions specifically on wild chickens, stray dogs and wild boars, as well as an additional category for “other wild animals”.

They were asked to choose from three options on what should be done about each group.

The first was to let them continue roaming freely. The second was to let them roam freely but with controlled numbers. The last option was to remove or relocate all such animals from the area.

The survey is opened to the residents from 22 November to 6 December 2020.

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