AVA explains monkey trapping video after public outcry

THE Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has responded to a public outcry over a YouTube video showing one of its contractors herding a wild monkey into a cage.

Titled "How Singapore handles its wild macaques", the video last night garnered more than 4,000 views. In the video, workers armed with a water gun and grabber are seen dragging the animal into a small cage.

Netizens appeared to be disgusted by the images. Ms Marie Teo posted a comment on the site saying: "Many of us are disgusted by this kind of behaviour from our fellow men and do not support it at all."

But yesterday, the AVA told The Straits Times that the method used by its contractor in Bukit Timah is "approved for monkey control operations".

Explaining what took place in the video, the AVA said contractors encountered a troop of monkeys with an aggressive male that had been harassing passers-by.

"Traps were set up but the monkey was not lured by the bait," said a spokesman. "The contractor had to throw a net over to catch it while his assistant stood by with a water gun to shoo away other members of the troop, if the situation warrants it."

The AVA said it conducted the operation in the area in response to complaints from residents of condominiums and commercial establishments there.

Together with the National Parks Board, it is studying the feasibility of sterilisation as a "long-term" measure to manage the monkey population. Currently, it traps the monkeys to either rehome or kill them. The AVA spokesman said: "We will try to relocate them where possible. However, as relocation options are limited, most will eventually be humanely euthanised."

Animal Concerns Research and Education Society chief executive Louis Ng said the method used to capture the monkey in the video is "clearly cruel as the monkey is screaming". He said sterilising the monkeys instead of relocating or culling them is still not a good strategy.

"The root of the problem is public education; people should be taught how to behave towards monkeys as it does not mean that the less monkeys we have, the less conflicts we will have," he said. "A handful of monkeys can still wreak havoc if provoked."

The number of complaints about the "monkey nuisance" has risen. AVA received 920 such complaints last year, up from 730 in 2011 and 800 the year before.

jantai@sph.com.sg