They're still feeding the monkeys

NParks may up fine and rope in security firms to nab culprits
Arti Mulchand, Straits Times 31 Dec 07;

THERE are fines, heaps of signs, and numerous reports about monkeys attacking feeders and picnicking families for food.

Yet many park-goers are oblivious, and seem to think the National Parks Board (NParks) is monkeying around when it tells them not to feed the primates that call the reserves around MacRitchie and Peirce reservoirs home.

Yesterday, barely five metres from a sign asking visitors to 'Stop feeding the monkeys... Fine $250' at Lower Peirce Reservoir, engineer Joseph Ng hung out with his sister, young niece and nephew, and maid, armed with a bag of bananas and small mandarin oranges.

Within seconds, he was surrounded by at least 15 feisty long-tailed macaques, demanding to be fed, with yet more bounding over.

This, just a day after this newspaper reported that monkey-feeders were to blame for a horde of monkeys attacking a food-bearing pregnant woman and her toddler.

'It's just a way to entertain the kids... It's only natural for us to feed them,' Mr Ng said, adding that he did not know feeding the monkeys was an offence. The sign he thought, was just a poster, and the 'fine is too small to read'.

'I didn't see it,' he declared, adamant.

So far this year, 151 people have been caught red-handed and fined. NParks may also up its fine, and rope in security companies to nab more culprits.

Mr Ng was one of the braver feeders - other park-goers were spotted throwing everything from fruit and potato chips to empty crisp packets to the scores of monkeys waiting by the roadside from the safety of their cars.

But just as Mr Ng stated that he knew of the danger - and was therefore more watchful of the primates - a cheeky long-tailed individual jumped up, twice ripping the red plastic bag he was clutching to free the rest of the treats.

According to the experts, feeding the monkeys changes their dietary habits and makes them aggressive when they are denied food.

They search for food outside the forest, recognise vehicles and plastic bags as potential food containers, and often end up invading homes around the nature reserves.

Illegal feedings continue to be the monkey on the back of NParks, sparking problems across the island.

Yesterday, over at MacRitchie Reservoir, one cheeky monkey made off with a packet of Milo drink from a family's picnic spread, and scurried up a tree to quench his thirst.

And then, as Bulgarian violin teacher Veneta Zlatinova, 42, settled down for her picnic with her husband and sons, she was also in for a rude shock.

A long-tailed macaque jumped up on the bench where her son sat and worked through two bags to find a homemade roti prata - filled with cheese no less.

Shocked that the monkeys were so 'fearless', she said perhaps the answer would be for people to simply not take food to the parks at all - whether as feeders, or as visitors.

'First of all people should stop feeding the monkeys... And also, this is their forest, we are in their territory.

'And when they see us eating, they expect the food is theirs too. I have always told my sons not to feed the monkeys, but perhaps we should not be eating in front of them too,' she concluded.

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