Encountering wildlife in Singapore: Here are the dos and don'ts

Karen Lim AsiaOne 21 Oct 17;

Living in a concrete jungle like Singapore, we tend to forget that we are still surrounded by pockets of nature with wildlife such as boars, otters, monkeys and monitor lizards. Some wild animals even tend to pop up in our neighbourhoods too due to urbanisation.

While some animals may look cute and cuddly, not all of them are friendly.

On Thursday, a man in his 40s was injured by a wild boar at Hillview Avenue. He sustained cuts and lacerations on both legs. Other wildlife such as monitor lizards are known to be sighted in bizarre places in Singapore and crocodiles were spotted near Changi Beach too.

So what should you do if you cross paths with a wild animal ?

Besides applying common sense, here are some tips and advice from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).

WILD BOARS

Wild boars are unpredictable and can be dangerous, especially female ones that are protecting their young.

Keep a safe distance from it, do not try to feed it and move away slowly. Do not attempt to take a photograph as it may be provoked should the flashlight go off.

STRAY DOGS

Most of the stray dogs are scared of humans and will stay out of your way, but some are known to approach and sniff you out. When that happens, do not run and stay calm, as it may give chase if you do so.

Instead, fold your arms and walk slowly in the opposite direction.

Do not stare at the dog as it may see it as a challenge and react aggresively. Most importantly, do not shout or make sudden movements to shoo it away, as it may think that it is in danger or that you want to play.

MONITOR LIZARDS

Monitor lizards are shy although they are seen quite frequently at neighbourhoods. Do not touch or chase them as they will attack when provoked or cornered.

Although monitor lizards kill their prey with their venom, this venom has a relatively mild effect on humans. If bitten, see a doctor immediately because the bite can be infected.

MONKEYS

Monkeys here are considered a nuisance as they are known to enter housing areas in search for food.

They are also known to attack or bite, so if you do encounter monkeys, stop whatever you are doing, remain calm and quiet. Do not make sudden movements and do not maintain direct eye contact with the monkeys. If you're holding an object that is attracting them, discard it as soon as you can.

One thing not to do is to run or try to hit them. If you have a child with you, AVA suggests you put him or her on your shoulders to increase your perceived size, in order to deter the monkeys from approaching.

Keep away from the area until the monkeys have left.

OTTERS

Many people have spotted wild otters along the waterways of Singapore and most observe them from afar.

This is the wise thing to do, as otters can be protective of themselves and their young if they get cornered and cannot escape.

If you encounter an otter, do not attempt to touch it, chase or corner it. Taking pictures is okay as long as there is no flash photography. Do not feed them too as they can find their own food in the wild and their natural eating habits help to keep the ecosystem healthy.

Snakes are a common sight and there have been reports of snakes entering houses via the air-conditioning unit, drain pipes and even toilet bowls.

If you do see a snake in your house, stay calm and do not attack it with a broom or stick. Keep the children or pets away and close all the doors and windows, except those that lead outside. Leave an escape route for the reptile.

If you encounter a snake in an open area, cover it with a heavy blanket or towel. Place heavy things around the edge of the blanket or towel so that the snake cannot slip away. Go and get help either from AVA or ACRES.

If you see a snake in your garden, spray it gently with a water hose while keeping your distance. This will persuade the snake to leave the area.

And, if there's a snake in your drawer or behind furniture, leave it alone, move everyone away from the immediate area and most importantly, do not attempt to interact with it at all. Call for professional help, while keeping an eye on the snake from a safe distance.

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