Expert panel set up to develop SOP for monkey problems

Measures to deal with human-macaque conflicts may include educating the public on how to interpret the animal's facial expressions.
Measures to deal with human-macaque conflicts may include educating the public on how to interpret the animal's facial expressions. PHOTO: WANBAO

Long-tailed macaques, a common sight in Singapore's parks, have been making headlines for their antics in neighbourhoods such as Bukit Batok and Segar Road - entering homes, stealing food and even biting people.

To better deal with conflicts between humans and macaques, an interdisciplinary panel comprising experts from various organisations was officially set up last month, The Sunday Times has learnt.

The panel includes staff from the National Parks Board (NParks) and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA); academics from the National University of Singapore (NUS); the Holland-Bukit Panjang Town Council, and interest groups such as the Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore), or JGIS.

JGIS primate scientist Andie Ang, who chairs the panel, said it provides a platform for agencies to discuss human-macaque conflicts, and to develop solutions and a standard operating procedure (SOP) for dealing with the issues. "We need to develop a common SOP across agencies so that when an incident happens, we are all on the same page," she said.

"Currently, one agency may come up with one solution and another agency, a different one, which could confuse the public."

The solutions may also sometimes come into conflict with each other - for instance, culling versus translocation.

The group will also develop pre-emptive measures, such as public education, before problems arise, she said.

Education efforts could include talks in schools or in estates prone to visits from the monkeys. These sessions would likely focus on the problems that arise when people feed macaques, or how to interpret macaques' facial expressions so that people are more aware of how to react when one is scared or aggressive.

Dr Lena Chan, senior director at NParks' National Biodiversity Centre, said NParks will work with the relevant stakeholders to assess the need for more working groups.

The management of wild boars has been thrown into the spotlight following a series of incidents, the latest occurring last Thursday, when a man was attacked outside a condominium in Hillview Avenue.

AVA said it is working with partners, including NParks and NUS, to mitigate human-wild boar conflict and ensure public safety.

"For example, to prevent traffic incidents, we are exploring the feasibility of measures such as putting signage about wildlife crossings at specific locations to warn motorists and erecting barriers at specific locations to prevent wildlife from encroaching onto roads," it said.

NParks has also started to remove oil palms - which boars have a preference for - from hot spots. "This helps to control populations at the hot spots and encourage migration to other areas in the nature reserves with lower wild boar density," it said.

It is also taking steps to discourage feeding of wild boars, and has installed signage to advise visitors to keep their distance when they encounter the animals. "Signage has also been installed along roads abutting hot spots at the nature reserves to alert motorists to look out for wildlife crossing," it added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 22, 2017, with the headline Expert panel set up to develop SOP for monkey problems. Subscribe