Singapore's conservation efforts get thumbs up from top primate expert Jane Goodall

Dr Jane Goodall is in Singapore for a three-day visit to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Jane Goodall Institute Singapore.
Dr Jane Goodall is in Singapore for a three-day visit to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Jane Goodall Institute Singapore.PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - Singapore's conservation efforts received the stamp of approval from top primate expert Jane Goodall, who said these are steps in the right direction.

But despite the rising awareness of environmental issues in the country, more can be done to reduce the conflict between humans and animals, she added.

For instance, she said people must stop feeding the long-tailed macaques that are found in many parts of the island. Doing so introduces them to human food, and drives them to harass humans and enter their homes in search of food.

Dr Goodall said if people left them alone for two or three years, and no one was feeding them, young monkeys would stop associating humans with food.

She said: "They will not even think that it's important to go and raid a house, and they won't know the taste of human food."

That way, there would be no need to resort to culling, she added.

"It's good that there still are monkeys here, so we have to use our brains to find ways to live in harmony with them," she said. "But we can't live in harmony with animals if we're killing them. I mean, culling is murder."

She added that the monkeys "have their own emotions... they feel fear and pain", so there is a need to find other ways to deal with them.

For instance, she saw grizzly bears in an Alaskan national park that have never eaten human food. The bears ignored people, even if they strayed to within 5m of the bears.

Dr Goodall said something similar could happen in Singapore.

She also applauded innovative steps like the wildlife connector, Eco-Link@BKE.

Eco-Link@BKE links the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve with the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, allowing animals to cross over.

Dr Goodall is a British primatologist and a leading expert on chimpanzees. She is in town to mark the 10th anniversary of the Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore), which is named after her. The institute aims to raise awareness of issues like conservation, animal welfare and the environment.

Dr Goodall, speaking to reporters at Hotel Fort Canning on Monday (Aug 7), said she did not have a detailed understanding of Singapore's conservation efforts but she knew that the awareness of environmental issues in the country has grown since the institute was set up.

Flanked by the institute's president Tay Kae Fong and vice-president Andie Ang, Dr Goodall said educating young people was key to creating a love for nature, which would in turn help people understand what they should do when they encounter wild animals.

Dr Goodall, who is here on a three-day visit, met Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee on Sunday (Aug6).

On Tuesday (Aug 8), her last day here, about 600 students and teachers are expected at take part in a conference that she will host.

josehong@sph.com.sg