Animal detection system to be developed for Rifle Range Road in 2022

The new system will allow the authorities to test it in different road conditions. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - A roadway animal detection system will be developed for Rifle Range Road from the first half of next year, making it the second road in Singapore after Old Upper Thomson Road to have one.

Making the announcement on Monday (Nov 15), National Development Minister Desmond Lee said the new system will allow the authorities to test it in different road conditions - Old Upper Thomson is a one-way road, while Rifle Range Road is two-way.

Mr Lee also announced two studies on the public's perception of wildlife to begin next year, and gave an update on a campaign by the Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore) to stop people from feeding monkeys.

He was speaking at a virtual dialogue organised by the institute, where he conversed with Dr Goodall about living with wildlife. The session was hosted by Nature Society (Singapore) president Dr Shawn Lum.

Dr Goodall is a world-famous primatologist known for her work on chimpanzees in Tanzania, where she immersed herself in their habitat, observing them closely.

Highlighting Singapore's science-based approach to wildlife management, Mr Lee said the National Parks Board (NParks) will broaden its species recovery efforts, with 160 species set to come under such efforts in 2030. That is up from 120 today.

In a statement, NParks said the new animal detection system will be deployed at Rifle Range Road as animals have been seen crossing it to get between two forested areas - Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the upcoming Rifle Range Nature Park.

The system will complement other efforts by NParks to provide safe connectivity for wildlife in Rifle Range Road, such as canopy rope bridges and culverts.

Plans for the new system follow a similar initiative by NParks and the Land Transport Authority in October 2019.

Then, the animal detection system was deployed in Old Upper Thomson Road to assess the reliability of the system in detecting wildlife movements and alerting oncoming road users to reduce the speed of their vehicles.

The system works by using closed-circuit television cameras that are equipped with analytics technology to detect animals and reduce the odds of false triggers. Upon animal detection, LED signs are lit to alert motorist of the animals' presence.

NParks said that the system in Old Upper Thomson Road has shown an accuracy rate of close to 100 per cent and that a number of motorists have been observed slowing down upon seeing the lighted sign. It noted that motorists generally travel at slower speeds along the stretch as it is a single-lane road with many bends.

Mr Lee also announced on Monday that two nationwide studies will be conducted next year to gather public perceptions on wildlife.

Their findings will guide the development of strategies that manage human-wildlife encounters.

The system in Old Upper Thomson Road has shown an accuracy rate of close to 100 per cent. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

The first study, a survey by Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore), will collate public sentiments toward primates in Singapore and macaque management measures, the minister said.

Such measures include monkey guarding, a wildlife management technique that aims to deter macaques from negative behaviours such as foraging for human food within residential areas.

Monkey guards wave sticks and make loud noises to guide macaques safely away from residential areas and back to the forest edge, deterring them from relying on man-made food sources.

This survey will begin early next year and its results will guide the second study - a broader and more in-depth study by NParks and the Singapore University for Technology and Design's Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities.

The study by NParks and the university aims to understand the public's perceptions and experiences regarding wildlife.

It will also shed light on how human-wildlife encounters are experienced here - as being positive or negative, intentional or non-intentional.

All common species of urban wildlife in Singapore will be included in the study, which will comprise both quantitative and qualitative assessments such as surveys and interviews. It will begin in early 2022 and be completed by mid-2023.

Findings will be used to encourage sustainable and positive human-wildlife relationships, said NParks.

An animal detection camera along Old Upper Thomson Road. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Meanwhile, Mr Lee announced updates to the institute's No Feeding Campaign, which was launched in November 2019 and aims to stop public feeding of long-tailed macaques.

The campaign, organised with several other wildlife groups, also seeks to educate the public on what to do during wildlife encounters, and encourage coexistence of humans and animals.

The institute said that thus far, the campaign has reached more than 24,000 people through 152 outreach opportunities by itself, the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) and NParks. These include talks, events and site visits.

In addition, 340 monkey guards from various groups were trained, including staff and volunteers of organisations such as Mandai Wildlife Group and Sentosa Development Corporation.

Monkey-proof bins have also been installed across the island - 26 in areas such as Upper Seletar and Lornie Road, 25 within Mandai Wildlife Reserve and more than 1,200 in Nanyang Technological University.

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