Platform launched by wildlife groups to encourage better co-existence with animals

Otters have been at the heart of human-wildlife conflict. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Encounters with wild boars and smooth-coated otters have made headlines here, with many people unsure over how to react to wildlife. Now, local wildlife conservation groups and the National Parks Board have stepped in to promote better co-existence, launching an islandwide programme on Earth Day, which falls on April 22.

Called Our Wild Neighbours (OWN), the initiative is anchored in a website, which hopes to serve as a platform for the public to learn about wildlife species and the dos and don'ts when encountering them.

The platform has a bulletin board for events and activities organised for the public to get more involved in conservation efforts.

Some examples include tree planting in Kranji Coastal Nature Park and otter-spotting sessions, where participants can learn about how the smooth-coated mammals returned to Singapore even though they were once locally extinct.

The website includes information on natural habitats, including how the behaviour of wildlife can be altered due to human activities such as feeding and improper disposal of food waste.

In a statement on Friday, the nature collective responsible for OWN said: "OWN aims to foster a better understanding among the community on the important role animals play in restoring and maintaining ecosystem balance, and why we need to be good neighbours to each other."

The comment follows widely publicised cases of human-wildlife conflict.

A boar was euthanised after colliding into a woman in Yishun on March 20, leaving her unconscious.

Otters have also been at the heart of human-wildlife conflict, with a man getting attacked by a group of otters at the Botanic Gardens in 2021 after the animals were provoked by another runner in the park.

A factor that commonly exacerbates human-wildlife conflict is the illegal feeding of wildlife, for instance, monkeys, which encourages these animals to encroach into densely populated human areas.

The statement added: "Raising awareness and understanding of our wildlife and their behaviour is important to help foster positive human-wildlife relationships.

"This allows the community to safely share spaces with wildlife and enjoy the benefits of living close to nature, as we transform into a City in Nature."

A boar collided into a woman in Yishun on March 20, leaving her unconscious, while a man was attacked by a group of otters in the Botanic Gardens in 2021. PHOTOS: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS/FACEBOOK, GRAHAM GEORGE SPENCER

To mark the launch of OWN on Friday, Minister for National Development Desmond Lee and OWN partners planted 20 native trees at Thomson Nature Park. 

"Living close to nature is a privilege, but it also comes with important responsibilities, because it means we will encounter wildlife more frequently," he said.

"I am encouraged to see members of the nature community coming together to work on this meaningful initiative."

Ms Anbarasi Boopal, co-chief executive of local wildlife rescue group Acres and one of the partners of OWN, said that in most cases, residents in Singapore are uncertain about how to behave when encountering wildlife and do not know how to resolve their own conflicts with native wildlife.

She added that Acres looks forward to reaching out to the wider public and showcase local efforts in the rescue, rehabilitation and release of animals.

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