Rise in boar numbers spurs debate on wildlife feeding

ST VIDEO: LIM YAOHUI
A woman spotted interacting with wild boars at the junction of Pasir Ris Drive 3 and Pasir Ris Farmway last Thursday evening. Some residents in the area support feeding the boars, but others say wild animals should not be fed.
A woman spotted interacting with wild boars at the junction of Pasir Ris Drive 3 and Pasir Ris Farmway last Thursday evening. Some residents in the area support feeding the boars, but others say wild animals should not be fed.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Public urged not to feed the animals, which may have doubled in population in Pasir Ris

While the authorities have been busy culling wild boars in Pasir Ris, at least one resident has been feeding the animals, which may have doubled in population in the area.

The thriving pack of wild boars in Pasir Ris Drive 3 has become the subject of a debate between people for and against wildlife feeding.

A local resident said the pack grew from about 10 to more than 20 animals in the last two years.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said it culled 21 boars in the same area last year to try to keep the population under control.

When The Sunday Times visited on Thursday evening, a middle- aged woman had stopped her car at the junction of Pasir Ris Drive 3 and Pasir Ris Farmway 1 and doled out a large pile of rice mixed with canned dog food on the soil-covered slope nearby.

The food attracted about 20 wild boars, which had appeared earlier from the forested patch farther up the slope marked with military-protected area signs. A pungent animal smell pervaded the air, and grunts and squeals were heard as the boars ate to their hearts' content.

The woman, who declined to be named, said she lived nearby and had fed the animals periodically for close to a year. "All animals have the right to live... They (the wild boars) should be left alone because they don't bother people," she added before driving off.

Retiree Thomas Abraham, 65, who has lived in the area for more than 20 years, first saw the animals about two years ago and has been observing them closely out of interest.

He supports the feeding, saying that the animals get hungry and look skinnier during the dry season.

"We can't let them starve...

"They are no danger to humans and they run away when people come too close," said Mr Abraham.

However, Ms Tricia Kat, 42, an aviation consultant who jogs through the area every other day, said: "If they're wild, you shouldn't give them food. They'll know where to look for it."

She added that the animals are a potential hazard to passing cyclists and runners, who might collide with them. "Maybe they could build a fence to keep them in... I hope they won't be culled," said Ms Kat.

The number of cases of wild boar-related feedback received by AVA has ballooned over the years, from about 30 in 2014 to 80 in 2015 and 140 last year.

AVA urged the public not to feed wild boars, as it may change their behaviour and make them reliant on humans.

Ms Anbarasi Boopal, deputy chief executive of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, went further, saying there should be an islandwide ban on all wildlife feeding, and not just in the nature reserves. Other wildlife experts said last year that the increase in wild boar sightings in Punggol and Pasir Ris could be due to urban development reducing their habitat or people drawing them out into the open by feeding them, rather than population growth.

Wild boars were involved in at least two traffic accidents last year when motorcyclists collided with them on the Bukit Timah Expressway and Seletar Expressway. A boy was hospitalised in May after being attacked by one in Punggol.

Just last week, Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao reported wild boar sightings in the Housing Board estate in Woodlands Street 41, with residents blaming these on people feeding pigeons and stray dogs.

Meanwhile, the National Parks Board is doing a population study of the wild boars to help manage them.

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See wild boars gobble down dinner. http://str.sg/4WfN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 15, 2017, with the headline 'Rise in boar numbers spurs debate on wildlife feeding'. Print Edition | Subscribe