Call of the Wild: What Happens When You Call a Wildlife Rescuer?
SINGAPORE: It was a calm morning for a young monitor lizard lying under a bush – until the arrival of wildlife rescuers.
The bush was in the garden of a private house and locals had called the National Parks Board (NParks) after spotting the reptile.
The lizard was surprised out of hiding when two men from a rescue agency hired by NParks approached. He walked away and there was a short chase before he was grabbed and placed in a clear plastic container.
Later that afternoon, NParks officers released the monitor, barely half a meter long, into an area of mangrove. This was one of the rescues CNA observed during a detachment with the NParks Wildlife Management Division on April 29-30.
Such encounters between wildlife and humans in Singapore, where green spaces and urban development are increasingly intertwined, are not uncommon.
Otters frolicking in fish ponds or condominium pools, macaques venturing into housing estates or wild boars injuring people have made headlines.
READ: Otters seen eating fish in condominium along Alexandra Canal, upsetting residents
This is when the NParks wildlife management group is busy – not only to save animals, but also to educate people about coexistence with animals and to conduct research to inform their plans and operations. of wildlife management.
During the first four months of this year, members of the public contacted the Wildlife Management Division nearly 10,000 times.
He had been contacted approximately 9,500 times by call, email or his online form before April 30. About 6,800 of the contacts were with birds and 2,700 other wildlife, such as monkeys, snakes and monitor lizards, NParks said.
The operational arm of the wildlife management group handles this feedback by descending to understand the situation and, if necessary, to rescue and release the animal that has been spotted.
WILD WILD OPERATION
The group played a major role in capturing an aggressive boar in Punggol earlier this year. About 30 people were activated to patrol the area where the boar was sighted after injuring two people on February 20.
Six days later, the animal was caught and then euthanized, but not before injuring two other people, including an NParks employee. Residents of the area, especially those with children, were anxious while the boar was on the loose.
READ: Wild boar captured in Punggol, 2 people injured in process
Although such incidents are rare, it was a dramatic example of the conflict that can be triggered when interactions between animals and humans go wrong.
Sharing more details on the February 26 incident, Dr Adrian Loo, director of the wildlife management group at NParks, said officers were already on the ground when a member of the public spotted the boar.
“We had our eyes on the wild boar he was hiding in the bush somewhere along the river park, and all of a sudden he rushed in,” he said in an interview about the work of the division.
NParks officers chased the boar and two of them caught up with it as it bit a woman. Officers then attempted to remove the boar and managed to distract it from the woman.
The staff member who threw the boar with a tranquilizer gun was bitten in the hand, Dr Loo said. He and the woman suffered minor cuts.
“We are very happy that we got there on time, before more damage was done,” said Dr Loo. “I think it was very brave of them, because they knew that … engaging the boar meant the boar was going to turn its attention to them and he’s an aggressive boar, but (it was) instinctive , I’m really proud of these guys.
This operation was only one aspect of what the division is doing, while other actions of the group help “to ensure that these incidents do not happen”, according to Dr Loo.
A SCIENTIFIC APPROACH
On the evening of April 30, CNA followed NParks to Linden Drive to observe the monkeys. NParks Manager for Wildlife Management and Outreach Tow Jia Hao does this by tracking and counting them – multiple times.
“We follow the macaques for a long time so that we can confirm the count, not to count twice and to make sure that we can accurately identify the sex and their age,” he said.
That day, the monkeys went into hiding as the weather turned, but Mr. Tow and his team will return.
The division is currently investigating the macaque population at around 30 sites bordering nature and urban areas. The study, which began in February, seeks to understand the size and structure of urban macaque troops, which will provide data for designing future management plans, Tow said.
Animal surveys help establish the population of each species, where they move and how they behave. There is a definite link between the animal’s food source and its population.
Studies have shown that more wild boars are found in old oil palm plantations. These cash crops, which are not native to Singapore, have high-calorie seeds and support a larger wild boar population, Dr Loo said.
The clearing of oil palm trees and their replacement by native plants would therefore make it possible to reduce the wild boar population in a “natural” way.
He established a similar link between pigeon populations and catering centers. During the “breaker”, when all hawking centers and restaurants had to close except for take-out, it was observed that pigeon populations declined when they could not feed on the leftovers in the centers. restoration.
It’s also why people shouldn’t feed animals, Dr Loo said.
During the two days spent with NParks wildlife rescuers, CNA followed the path as they retrieved a bronze-backed snake from a closet, released a palm civet and a python into the wild, and visited a hornbill recovering from being attacked by a cat in Sentosa.
While the monitor lizard and bronze back were immediately released, some are kept for a short time and checked for health. Some animals are also microchipped.
Species such as civets and pythons, otters and long-tailed macaques will do so so that NParks can collect more information about them, such as when and where they were caught before.
PUT THEM IN THE SHOES OF PEOPLE AND ANIMALS
Dr Loo called studies of native fauna “putting yourself in the shoes of animals” to better understand their behavior and ecology.
“The ecological research we do on wildlife helps us shape our approach to wildlife management.”
The other big part of the division’s job is to empathize with people and educate them about coexistence with animals, he said.
“By understanding a person’s fear (of animals), we can try to alleviate that fear through education and awareness as well as scientific knowledge,” he said.
Officers will travel to areas where macaques roam, for example, to teach residents “monkey keeping” methods, which help mitigate potential conflict.
“In fact, it conditions the monkey not to come to this area … to not really chase the monkey,” he said. “We use a long pole and then we hit it on the ground (to tell the monkeys), ‘You’re not supposed to be here. Try not to cross this border. ”
For unwanted otters, they will tell condo management to try and close the holes in their fences where otters enter.
But there are also times when conflicts arise because people who find otters cute get too close and otters can get on the defensive when they have puppies, he said.
“Overall, people find them very adorable … and then, of course, there are times when (the otter) goes to the pool and / or pond and catches a lot of fish …” sometimes it’s not an easily digestible scene, “he said.
“The best way to observe the rights of an animal is to observe from a distance, there was our mantra.”
This applies to all wildlife, including otters, wild boars, macaques and hornbills, NParks said. Members of the public can call the 24-hour Animal Response Center at 1-800-476-1600 for wildlife-related issues, if they find the animal in their homes and premises.