NParks defends wild boar decision

Evidence of environment being damaged, says parks body
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 16 Jun 12;

THE National Parks Board has come out to defend its decision to manage the wild boar population in the Lower Peirce area.

In a letter to The Straits Times Forum page yesterday, NParks said the decision 'was not taken lightly'.

There is 'conclusive evidence' of the negative impact of wild boars on the environment, it added.

Mr Wong Tuan Wah, its director of conservation, wrote that the agency's researchers had found rare native gingers being devoured by the boar.

'We have also been receiving regular feedback from the public, up to five each month, reporting encounters with wild boars.

'Recently, we were notified that a pair of wild boars attacked a pet dog, which subsequently died due to severe injuries,' he said.

Dr Shawn Lum, president of the Nature Society, and two university professors also wrote to The Straits Times Forum page to support NParks' decision.

Dr Lum said the boars posed a danger to Singapore's forests because of their tendency to eat the seeds of primary forests.

'If our wild boar numbers continue to increase, and they are already above their natural levels, a century of gradual forest regeneration will be quickly reversed,' he said.

Wild boar densities in the Lower Peirce area are at least 10 times above natural levels, said Dr Lum, who cited available data and ongoing studies.

In a joint letter, two professors from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the National University of Singapore (NUS) also said it was time to cull the wild boar population.

'Vehicular collisions with wild boars are accidents waiting to happen... The chances of boars injuring members of the public are also increasing,' wrote Professor Peter Ng of NUS and Associate Professor Diong Cheong Hoong of NTU.

NParks also clarified that it had never considered the use of crossbows in culling the animal. It added that use of the bow is illegal in the country.

The Straits Times understands that the wild boar issue was discussed at a biodiversity roundtable last night. The event was attended by representatives from various groups including NParks, the Nature Society, the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, and the NUS biological sciences department.

Why wild boars have to be culled: They destroy forests
Straits Times Forum 16 Jun 12;

WE TAKE a holistic approach in managing the growing population of wild boars ('Culling wild boar not the answer' by Ms Irene Low, Wednesday; 'Explore more humane ways to reduce wild boar population' by Ms Vilma D'Rozario, and 'More research needed on wild boar' by Dr Chong Shin Min; Forum Online, Wednesday).

We agree with Ms Low and Ms D'Rozario, who mentioned the need for public education.

Over the years, we have conducted public education and outreach activities on the presence of wild boars in our urban spaces. There are also 'animal crossing' signs along roads where wild boars have been seen, to warn motorists.

We will continue these efforts.

The decision to manage the wild boar population at Lower Peirce was not taken lightly.

All three writers asked about studies on the negative impact of wild boars on the environment.

There is conclusive evidence of this.

Wild boars trample and destroy the forest undergrowth, adversely affecting its biodiversity and rate of natural regrowth.

For example, our researchers have found that rare native gingers are being devoured by wild boars.

The natural behaviour of wild boars to dig up soil also compromises our reforestation and habitat enhancement efforts.

In addition, we have been receiving regular feedback from the public, up to five each month, reporting encounters with wild boars.

This is not surprising as an increasing number of wild boars have been observed at the fringes of our nature reserves and near residential areas.

Recently, we were notified that a pair of wild boars attacked a pet dog, which subsequently died due to severe injuries.

Ms Low and Ms D'Rozario raised other suggestions to manage wild boars, such as erecting barriers and sterilisation.

The feasibility of these ideas can be considered as part of the holistic management plan, but they cannot replace the need to manage the wild boar population.

We should not wait for a more serious incident to happen before taking action.

We have been consultative with our concerns by initiating meetings with nature and animal welfare groups to explore the most appropriate method.

Finally, we would like to highlight that the use of crossbows is illegal in Singapore, and it is not one of the methods under consideration.

Wong Tuan Wah
Director, Conservation
National Parks Board

Population is surging
Straits Times Forum 16 Jun 12;

THE management of nature areas should be guided by ecological principles and scientific data. The National Parks Board's (NParks) proposal to limit the wild boar population is ecologically sound and well justified.

The reasons include:

Wild boar population estimates made from already-available data and ongoing studies suggest that in the Lower Peirce area, wild boar densities are at least 10 times above natural levels (densities in the presence of natural predators such as tigers and leopards).

Wild boars are principally seed predators, not dispersers. They are especially known to seek out large seeds to eat, and disperse only seeds that are too small to avoid destruction during gut passage. Primary forest trees, especially our most critically endangered ones, have large seeds.

Our forests are, through careful management and restoration, slowly recovering. But they are still vulnerable to disturbance. Increased seed predation by unnaturally high populations of wild boar will have disastrous consequences on the long-term viability of primary forests.

Studies by leading ecologists have demonstrated the devastating impacts that abnormally high wild boar densities have on forest regeneration. We should not wait until this situation is repeated in Singapore. If our wild boar numbers continue to increase, a century of gradual forest regeneration will be quickly reversed.

When any component of an ecosystem becomes too abundant in the absence of natural checks and balances, something that is 'natural' can also become harmful.

NParks hopes to restore the wild boar population to more manageable, ecologically appropriate levels for the overall good of the nature reserves.

Population reduction through culling is only part of a more holistic plan, and other suggestions offered - sterilisation and contraception - could be employed as part of a longer-term follow-up.

Once a decision to reduce the wild boar population has been made based on ecological criteria, the difficult issue arises as to how best to implement it.

This part of the debate is something that is for experts in wildlife management to explore, be they from NParks, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, the veterinary community, or wildlife groups, among others.

The culling of wild animals is not a decision that should be or is being made lightly, and NParks has shown a willingness to adopt the most humane options to manage wild boar numbers.

Shawn Lum
Nature Society (Singapore)

Threat to public safety
Straits Times Forum 16 Jun 12;

WHILE the concerns over wild boar culling are real, the long-term challenges posed by the animals here are not simple.

Based on the available data, the wild boar population in Singapore has reached a level where active management must be proactively implemented for public safety and the conservation of our nature reserves.

We therefore support the National Parks Board's (NParks) decision to explore wild boar population control methods.

Unfortunately, Singapore's forests in our nature reserves cannot sustain a wild boar population without human intervention, because there are no longer predators like tigers and leopards.

Wild boars multiply rapidly, producing four to eight piglets a year; so their population will quickly reach unsustainable levels.

Without active population management, the wild boar will cause continued damage to the forest ecosystem from their natural behaviour. They are voracious feeders, eating seeds, young plants and even small animals. They also trample the undergrowth and prevent natural regeneration of the forest. Left uncontrolled, the nature reserve forest can only deteriorate.

In many countries, wild boars have caused major problems in otherwise healthy ecosystems. Hence, in conservation management, culling is a regrettable but necessary practice.

Recent observations along the Lower Peirce area indicate that the wild boar population is increasing and they are spreading to other locations like public roads, parks and residential areas. The size of the packs is also getting larger.

Vehicular collisions with wild boars are accidents waiting to happen, with potentially severe consequences. The chances of boars injuring members of the public are also increasing. All these signal the need to act with urgency.

We note that NParks has taken action to speak with various parties about the problem and identify a culling method for the estimated herd of 100 boars at Lower Peirce, which could double in number by the year end.

This targeted and consultative approach is sound and should be encouraged. After a humane method for culling has been identified, we recommend that the culling start at the earliest possible date.

Professor Peter Ng
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Department of Biological Sciences
National University of Singapore

Associate Professor Diong Cheong Hoong
Natural Sciences & Science Education
National Institute of Education
Nanyang Technological University