Human-animal conflict a complex issue to manage

Today Online 7 Dec 13;

We thank the contributors of the recent Voices letters on human-monkey conflict. These reflect differing sentiments on how such conflicts could be managed.

While some believe that more direct forms of management, via population control such as culling, should be adopted, others prefer a longer-term approach of education and greater public awareness of how to co-exist with monkeys.

The management of human-animal conflict is a complex issue, with many stakeholders holding differing views. We must acknowledge the differing views and work together to find appropriate, feasible solutions for both the short and longer term.

In managing human-animal conflicts, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority’s (AVA) priority is to ensure that public safety and health are not compromised. Monkeys may carry zoonotic diseases transmissible to humans that are harmful to our health.

We have received feedback on monkey nuisance and aggression. For the latter, the AVA would act immediately to prevent further threats to public safety. For instance, earlier this year, a monkey dislodged glass window panes repeatedly from a school chapel. Fortunately, no one was injured.

In September, a monkey entered a condominium unit and injured an infant. In both cases, the AVA carried out surveillance and targeted control operations upon receiving the feedback.

Residents, too, can help minimise human-monkey conflict by making their premises less attractive to monkeys. Simple, immediate actions such as keeping food items out of sight and practising good refuse management, like disposing of rubbish in bins with secured lids, can be practised.

While residents do their part, the AVA is working with the National Parks Board to study the feasibility of sterilisation as a long-term measure to manage the monkey population.

However, irresponsible feeding by some members of the public remains a problem. It alters the monkeys’ behaviour, resulting in them venturing out of their natural habitats in search of human food sources.

The monkeys rummage through rubbish bins and approach humans boldly, including grabbing plastic bags and other belongings.

The public should refrain from feeding monkeys and keep food away from them. It should be noted that it is an offence to feed monkeys in the nature reserves. Members of the public who have feedback on monkey-related issues may contact the AVA at 1800 476 1600.