Better to protect habitats, not cage wildlife

Threatened mammals such as pangolins, leopard cats and sambar deer rely on large areas to find food, mates and shelter.

Like all wild animals, they will experience high stress if their natural range is drastically reduced, or worse - if they are forcibly moved to a captive holding facility.

As such, I do not agree with the letter writer who suggested confining wild animals to a holding area, though I have no doubt it was well-intended (Keep endangered animals in holding area until Mandai parks built, by Mr Jackson Winifred Yap Quee Lan; April 4).

We need to reflect on the broader issue at hand.

In the first place, why would these shy animals risk leaving sheltered habitats, and move across exposed foreign environments like roads?

It is conceivable that they are driven by disturbance, perhaps from the construction works; and/or that they need to access vital resources located on the opposite side.

If either of these is true, then the alternative suggestion of installing a boundary fence along the road would likewise be detrimental to these animals as it would confine them to a habitat that is unsuitable or an area that is insufficient for their survival.

Worse, this option might result in more animals attempting to cross unfenced roads in the vicinity.

The key point here is that most of our iconic and endangered fauna require substantial areas of high-quality - or, at the very least, undisturbed - habitats.

If conserving Singapore's natural heritage is truly important to us, then we cannot shy away from decisions to set aside areas for wildlife to flourish.

I hope Mandai's lessons will not be forgotten when we have to make similar decisions concerning nature areas and new developments, such as the Cross Island Line.

Mark Wong Kah Loon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2018, with the headline 'Better to protect habitats, not cage wildlife'. Print Edition | Subscribe