Feeding a key reason for human-wildlife conflict

The feeding of wildlife is one of the key factors contributing to human-wildlife conflict in Singapore, as shown by research (Feeding wild animals will cultivate love for nature, by Mr Lee Chiu San; July 20).

Pigeons are irresponsibly fed here, creating a spike in their population. Upon receiving complaints of bird nuisance from residents, town councils poison the birds and leave them to die.

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) has witnessed non-target species such as koels, orioles, sparrows and starlings affected by this as well.

Wild pigs and long-tailed macaques have also been affected by human feeding in many areas across Singapore.

Human feeding of wildlife alters their behaviour, with serious consequences, such as the animals approaching humans for food, becoming aggressive and increasing their population. This often results in the animals getting trapped and culled.

Acres has even seen situations where it is the feeders who ultimately complain to the agencies.

While some animals, such as squirrels and birds, may be seen as cute, they very often become disliked when they start entering homes and chew on furniture and wiring fixtures or build nests.

But why would they so brazenly enter homes if not for human conditioning with food?

Hornbill populations in Singapore increased through the implementation of the successful Singapore Hornbill Project, which involved studies and providing them with nesting sites. It was not due to feeding by the public.

Our well-established urban greenery could be vital reasons for the increase in magpie robin and zebra dove populations as well.

The poaching of birds is still a big problem in Singapore. Feeding songbirds to appreciate them is just one step from feeding songbirds in a trap.

We should not compare practices in America and Europe with densely populated Singapore. With a rich biodiversity, the situation here is very different.

We need to change our mindset that feeding or petting wildlife translates to appreciating them.

Cultivating a love for nature starts with compassion and respect for all beings, and should not be based on what one thinks is cute or beautiful.

In our small, dense and urban nation, we need to be more tolerant about our wild fauna and learn to co-exist. Caring for and appreciating animals is everyone's responsibility, regardless of whether one lives in a private property or not.

Kalai Vanan

Deputy-Chief Executive

Animal Concerns Research and Education Society

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2018, with the headline 'Feeding a key reason for human-wildlife conflict'. Print Edition | Subscribe