More monkeys caught in AVA traps

Arti Mulchand & Esther Tan, Straits Times 22 Mar 08;

206 caught last year, up from 93 in 2004; AVA loans out, for free, about 20 traps a month

IT IS not a good time to be a monkey living cheek by jowl with humans here.

The number of them caught in the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's traps has jumped dramatically lately.

Last year, 206 were caught, more than twice the 93 caught in 2004, said Mr Madhavan Kannan, who heads AVA's Centre for Animal Welfare and Control.

Two monkeys have been trapped so far this year, including a baby monkey caught in Binjai Park off Dunearn Road on Feb 29.

The little one's capture tripped off three hours of mayhem for the family in whose garden it happened: The monkey troop - apparently bent on rescue and revenge - swooped in, screeching from the rooftop, and even entered the family's semi-detached home.

Plagued by monkeys stealing food, the family had borrowed a trap from the AVA.

Mr Kannan explained that his officers do not catch monkeys as part of their work; they only suggest laying traps when complaints come in.

The AVA loans out - for free - about 20 traps a month, or close to 240 a year.

These work like rat traps, in that bait, usually fruit, is dangled on a hook in them. Pulling on the hook springs the trap, shutting its gate.

Trapped monkeys are taken to the AVA and put down.

Mr Kannan explained that re-releasing them into the wild is not an option, because having already strayed from their troop, these monkeys are likely to be repeat runaways. They cannot be relocated to other forested areas either, because a turf war could break out if those areas already have resident bands there.

Of the AVA's 40 traps, 28 are now on loan in places such as Binjai Park, Pasir Panjang, Thomson, Chestnut Drive and Sin Ming Walk.

The AVA usually gives the trap about two weeks to work, though residents can keep them longer in cases of prolonged monkey mischief.

Other than trapping the monkeys, AVA has been advising people against feeding the monkeys or unwittingly making food available to them by not securing rubbish bins, for example, said Mr Kannan.

A monkey with a steady supply of food will spend less time hunting, and more time going forth to multiply, which worsens the problem for the humans. Being fed regularly also makes them bolder.

At Binjai Park, residents say monkeys have blithely entered their homes and helped themselves to food.

They have also grown smarter about traps, with older monkeys having figured out how to get at the bait without springing them.

Other residents there also set traps last month, when the primates showed up in larger groups and were aggressive to boot.

Dr Lavan Iswaran, 73, who had his garden wrecked by a 20-strong troop, said:'They destroyed the fruit trees, plucked all the fruit and flowers and even pulled out the young shoots on the trees. They were also lifting the tiles off the roof.'

Since the baby monkey was trapped, things have quietened somewhat, but Dr Iswaran, who has since learnt that the AVA puts the nuisances down, has softened his stance against them.

'I pray very hard they don't come, I actually do feel sorry for them.'

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