Wild boar culling to go ahead: NParks

In response to petition from residents, it says move is necessary to protect forest
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 12 Jul 12;

RESIDENTS of Old Upper Thomson Road who started an online petition to ask the National Parks Board (NParks) not to cull wild boars in their neighbourhood have been told that their wish has not been granted.

The petition, which garnered 150 signatures, was submitted to Mr Inderjit Singh, MP of the area, last Friday.

Some of the petitioners had urged NParks to study other options such as sterilising or relocating the animals, or housing them in the zoo.

'The Australians have their koalas and the Chinese have their pandas. There is no reason we should not take pride in the creatures found in our own backyard,' said resident Constance Ong, 47, a housewife.

The e-mail message to Mr Singh also asked for a scientific count of the boars in the Lower Peirce area, and for a panel of experts to be assembled to discuss how to manage its population. He had given the petition to NParks on the petitioners' behalf.

But NParks responded last night, saying the culling will go ahead. 'We know that reducing the wild boar population in the Lower Peirce area by culling is not popular,' it said in an e-mail message.

'Having taken into consideration the views of experts, we conclude that it is, however, necessary.'

Boars have been in the spotlight since The Straits Times reported last month that NParks was considering culling them in the Lower Peirce area. Its conservation director Wong Tuan Wah has said the decision is necessary to protect the Lower Peirce forest and lower the risk of human-boar conflicts.

In an interview with The Straits Times last month, he said NParks staff had observed two herds totalling some 80 to 100 boars in the 1.5 sq km area, about the size of 340 football fields.

This population density, which could double by the end of the year, far exceeds that of other forests such as the Pasoh Forest Reserve in Malaysia, where extensive damage to flora and fauna has been recorded, he noted.

'You can now see far into the Lower Peirce forest, which would not have been the case if the seedlings and tree saplings had been given the chance to grow,' he said.

He added that a boar attacked people in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park last month and killed a pet dog at the Chestnut area in Upper Bukit Timah last December.

'We don't want to wait for a serious accident to happen before taking action,' he said.

The agency said it had ruled out sterilisation and contraceptives after consulting veterinarians. Chemical contraceptives on the market now would require follow-up injections, which are not practical for the free-ranging boar, said Mr Wong.

Surgical sterilisation would require capturing and sedating the animals, which is invasive and stressful for them.

Dr Shawn Lum, president of the Nature Society, said relocating the boars to other reserves on the island would only transfer the problem elsewhere, especially since their numbers already appear to be too high for Singapore.

NParks said other measures such as public education on the animals will be carried out. It will also explore other options in future, such as removing the boars' food source in the Lower Peirce area.

But it added that culling may be necessary on a regular basis if the population continues to grow. It said it is still working with Wildlife Reserves Singapore to explore a culling method.

Ms Ong said: 'We're a bit disappointed, but we'll keep trying, perhaps by seeking the views of experts ourselves.'