Monkey complaints up, so culling rises too

This story was originally published in the Straits Times on July 28, 2013

Almost 360 macaques were killed by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) in the first half of this year, more than the combined total for the past two years and estimated to be one-fifth of the total population of not more than 2,000.

The AVA told The Sunday Times it had euthanised 357 monkeys from January to last month, compared with 204 in 2010, 151 in 2011 and 127 last year.

The animals were culled in response to complaints, which it is getting more of, said the AVA. Last year, it received 920 complaints about the "monkey nuisance", up from 730 in 2011.

External contractors are hired, or traps lent to residents to capture the monkeys, which are then released elsewhere or killed.

But the high number culled this year has shocked a macaque researcher and an animal welfare group, which is calling for a containment strategy that uses other methods.

"Culling one-fifth of the population seems like we're trying to exterminate the monkeys, not manage the conflicts between them and people," said chief executive of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) Louis Ng.

He said his group is in the midst of "very positive" discussions with the AVA on other ways to manage the conflicts.

For instance, smooth walls at least 3m high or electric fences would prevent the monkeys from climbing into condominium grounds, said Nanyang Technological University graduate student Amanda Tan, who is studying a troop of Bukit Timah monkeys.

She also recommended more aggressive monkey-proofing of trash bins and common dumpsters.

The monkey problem was highlighted at two separate meetings yesterday. At one, called by the Moulmein Watten Neighbourhood Committee, almost 40 people told representatives from the AVA and National Parks Board (NParks) how monkeys had entered their homes and bedrooms, stolen food, attacked pet dogs, broken lamps and roof-top lightning conductors, ransacked balconies, and pilfered fruit.

"I love animals. I love wildlife on my streets. But I draw the line when my personal or family's safety is threatened and there is danger to our property," said committee chairman Fong Kwok Shiung.

Residents appealed to the authorities to capture the animals more quickly.

An NParks representative said the agency was trying to move the animals' food sources deeper into the nature reserves, away from homes.

Problems with the animals were also among the issues raised at a community meeting between government agencies and about 15 residents of Holland-Bukit Timah GRC and their MP Sim Ann. Several there, however, said they did not want the monkeys to be culled.

Acres said it has hired two full-time staff and trained them to shoo the monkeys away when they approach homes in conflict-prone areas. The staff also encourage residents to keep food out of sight.

"Shooing the monkeys away modifies their behaviour so they will learn that they cannot get into homes so easily, and they may stop trying," he said, but added that this process will take months.

This story was originally published on July 28, 2013

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