ST year-end round-up: Top 10 animal encounters that made news in 2017

(Clockwise from top left) A chicken, a monitor lizard in a pool, a blue-crowned hanging parrot, a long-tailed macaque, a crocodile, a hawksbill turtle, a monkey, a python ready to attack a bird, a wild boar and a monitor lizard are the top 10 animals
(Clockwise from top left) A chicken, a monitor lizard in a pool, a blue-crowned hanging parrot, a long-tailed macaque, a crocodile, a hawksbill turtle, a monkey, a python ready to attack a bird, a wild boar and a monitor lizard are the top 10 animals that made it into the news in 2017. PHOTOS: ST FILE, SCREENGRAB FROM FACEBOOK VIDEO/ENUL UHIBUKKI, SEAH KWANG PENG, JOYCE FANG, YUSAINI ABDUL RAHIM, AUDREY TAN, JOSEPH TAN, MELVIN YAP, LIANHE WANBAO, STOMP

SINGAPORE - Singapore may be a concrete jungle, but now and then some residents get a peek of its "wild" side.

From nimble monkeys to slithering pythons and the rare hawksbill turtles, sightings and news of birds and animals in our urban spaces have caused quite a stir online.

Here is a recap on the top 10 animal moments of the year:

Jan: Free-roaming chickens in Thomson and Pasir Ris culled

The year of the Rooster in the Chinese zodiac began on Jan 28, and news about the birds too made headlines that same month.

In January, the AVA culled 24 free-roaming chickens in Sin Ming in Thomson after it got 20 complaints about noise, and concerns over avian flu.

The move sparked a public outcry that culminated in Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon assuring MPs in Parliament that it was done only as a last resort.


Animal rescue volunteer and founder of dog rescue group Voices for Animals Derrick Tan built a chicken coop for the birds in hopes that they will get adopted. PHOTO: ST FILE

However, barely a month later, news about AVA taking a similar action in the private estate of Sungei Api Api in Pasir Ris broke.

Residents said that they used to see flocks of 10 birds or more, but this had whittled down to groups of about two or three birds.

Many of them, who said that the chickens gave the estate a kampung atmosphere, were upset that the AVA had culled the chickens without informing or discussing it with them.

However, an AVA spokesman said if these feathered flocks were left unchecked, they could pose a threat to public health in the event that bird flu is brought here by migratory birds.

Feb: Monitor lizard takes a dip in Jurong East pool


The reptile was captured on video swimming in the lazy river at Jurong East Swimming Complex. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM FACEBOOK VIDEO/ENUL UHIBUKKI

A monitor lizard was spotted going for an afternoon swim at the Jurong East Swimming Complex on Feb 13.

The reptile, which was about a metre long, could be seen slithering in the waters in what appears to be the lazy river in a video that went viral. The sports complex said that it was closed for its weekly pool maintenance that day, and the centre's pest control vendor had captured the monitor lizard. It was released back into the wild.

April: Parrots and chicks nests in tree near Pek Kio Market


Scores of photographers wait patiently to capture a shot of one of these blue-crowned hanging parrots, which have been nesting in a tree near Pek Kio Market and Food Centre, and their chicks. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

For about a week in April, avid bird-watchers and photographers spent hours staring at a tree opposite the Pek Kio Market and Food Centre waiting to catch the rare sight of adult parrots and their chicks nesting.

Spotting a blue-crowned hanging parrot in an urban environment is rare, as they tend to live high in the canopy, said wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai.

He added that parrot cannot make their own holes to nest in, so they use those left by other birds, such as woodpeckers.

Shutterbugs found themselves in luck when the birds chose a hole 5m above ground, offering them a good angle for their photos.

April: Monkey harrasses residents in Segar Road


The authorities were trying to search out and capture a troop of long-tailed macaques at Segar Road in Bukit Panjang on April 20, 2017, following a spate of incidents in which monkeys harassed HDB residents. ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

A joint team from various animal welfare organisations was called in to Segar Road in Bukit Panjang in April, after residents complained they were being harrased by a monkey.

Over a few weeks, two long-tail macaques had stolen food from their homes and even bit them.

While the first mischief-maker was caught in Nov 2016, the second one - now named Sugar - evaded its captors for 15 days.

It was finally caught on May 2 and moved to the Acres wildlife rescue centre in Choa Chu Kang in preparation for its release back into the wild.

August: Crocodile sighting at Changi Beach Park


The crocodile was first spotted in the vicinity of Changi Beach Park on the morning of Aug 21, 2017. PHOTO: YUSAINI ABDUL RAHIM

A crocodile was sighted in the waters off the beach area of Changi Beach Park on two occasions within a week in August.

Immigration & Checkpoints Authority officer Yusaini Abdul Rahim, who works at the Changi Point Ferry Terminal, first saw the reptile on Aug 21. He spotted it again two days later and posted several pictures and videos of it on Facebook, which later went viral.

Warning signs were put up in the area after the sighting was reported to the authorities.

NParks said that it is likely an estuarine crocodile, which is known to swim freely in the Strait of Johor. These crocodiles feed and rest in mangroves and freshwater bodies, and are usually found in the water or at mudflats away from visitor routes.

August: Hawksbill turtle lays eggs at East Coast Park

In a rare occurence, a critically endangered hawksbill turtle was spotted laying eggs on a beach at East Coast Park on Aug 23.

The pregnant turtle made landfall at around dusk, and NParks said it was alerted to the sighting by a member of the public at around 7.30pm.

The reptile started laying eggs at about 8.40pm and returned to the water at 10pm, after it had covered the eggs with sand.

Just a week before this sighting, on Aug 16, 32 hawksbill turtle hatchlings were guided back to sea by NParks after they were seen scampering about on the beach by the public.

Sept: Monkey steals eggs and scratches child in Punggol


The monkey was spotted snatching a woman's eggs, frolicking at the playground and scratching a boy. PHOTOS: JOSEPH TAN

Over a weekend in September, a monkey found in a Punggol Housing Board estate encroaching on residents' space and scratching a child, before it was captured by the authorities.

Pictures and videos posted on Facebook by Punggol resident Joseph Tan, who first saw the monkey on Sept 1, showed the animal eating oranges and eggs it had snatched from a passer-by.

According to Mr Tan, the monkey had scratched the leg of a boy about four or five years old.

He believes that the monkey came from Coney Island, as the area is connected by the water way.

AVA said that the monkey was caught to safeguard public safety, and relocation options were being explored.

Oct: Python tries to eat pet bird in Pasir Ris home


Mr Melvin Yap's wife returned home on the morning of Oct 30 to this sight. PHOTO: MELVIN YAP

On Oct 30, Mr Melvin Yap woke up at about 6.30am to find a 1.5m-long python curled on top of his family's pet bird cage.

The snake may have been trying to eat the bird, he said, adding that he was awoken by his wife screaming at the sight. She had just returned to their Jalan Loyang Besar home, located near Pasir Ris Park, after working the night shift.

His pet bird was "petrified" and stood in a corner of the cage, he added.

Using a stick and a plastic bag, he captured the reptile and placed it in a fish tank, before handing it over to Acres.

Oct: Wild boar injures man outside Hillview condominium


The wild boar was hit by a passing bus and died from its injuries after the attack. PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

A 44-year-old man suffered cuts and lacerations on both legs after a wild boar attacked him outside a condominium at Hillview Avenue on Oct 19.

The man was walking towards Hillview MRT station when he spotted the animal.

When he tried to run away, he lost his balance and fell, and the wild boar subsequently charged at him.

The wild boar was then hit by a passing bus as it tried to escape, and suffered injuries. It later died.

Following the incident, closed-circuit television cameras were installed in the estate.

Other encounters with boars through the year also received keen interest online.

On June 14, a big herd of wild boars - numbering more than 15 - was caught on video trotting around the Tuas bus interchange.

They were seen loitering on the road as well as in front of a canteen, as passers-by watched curiously.

Nov: Monitor lizard hides under train at Bishan train depot


A video sent to Stomp showed staff prodding something in the undercarriage of a parked train with poles, sticks and dustpans. The lizard was then grabbed by its tail and dragged out of the premises. PHOTO: STOMP

A monitor lizard turned up at SMRT's train depot in Bishan on Nov 28, and was dragged out by depot staff.

In a video sent to Stomp, staff members were seen prodding something in the undercarriage of a parked train with poles, sticks and dustpans.

Moments later, a monitor lizard fell to the ground. As the staff tried to guide it out by pushing it with their tools, the lizard opened its mouth and even whipped its tail a few times.

A staff member then grabbed it by its tail and hauled it out of the premises.

Netizens however, were critical of the way the lizard was handled by staff, while experts said that the handling of such animals should be left to experienced wildlife rescue organisations.