Tackling monkey problem

Channel NewsAsia 16 Aug 14;

SINGAPORE: A new volunteer group has been set up to deal with the monkey problem faced by residents living near the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. The monkeys break into homes as well as snatch plastic bags or food from people.

The long-tailed macaques have been a headache for residents in the area. And now members of the new Bukit Timah Wildlife Network make it a point to be at the nature reserve every weekend to remind visitors not to feed the monkeys and not to litter.

Authorities have taken control measures from time to time but one MP said public education is still a better way forward. Ms Sim Ann, an MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, said: "It is about letting people know that we should not encourage the monkeys to acquire a taste for human food, because that just changes their diet and also their behaviour. There really is absolutely no need for visitors to feed the monkeys. The monkeys have enough food in the forests."

Mr Jason Kok, organising chairman of Bukit Timah Wildlife Network, said: "We did some research and realised that monkey-related problems can be traced back to human behaviour, which is littering. So we wanted to do a programme to educate the public on non-littering (and) not to leave rubbish in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, so as not to leave an additional food source for the macaques."

- CNA/ir

Don't feed the monkeys in Bukit Timah
David Ee The Straits Times AsiaOne 19 Aug 14;

Humans do, monkeys do more.

That is why a group of volunteers has decided to tackle the simian problem facing Bukit Timah homes at the source. Since a few weeks ago, the new Bukit Timah Wildlife Network has been urging visitors to the nature reserve there not to feed the monkeys.

The aim is to prevent the animals from getting overly acquainted with human food and being fed, which emboldens them to approach residences.

Last year, The Sunday Times revealed how the authorities increased culling efforts after a rising number of resident complaints about monkeys getting into their homes.

According to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), it euthanised about 570 long-tailed macaques last year, and another 100 so far this year.

This is a third of the estimated islandwide population of around 2,000 monkeys.

The culling appears to have been effective. AVA said there have been 420 complaints about monkeys so far this year, compared with 1,860 last year and 920 in 2012.

Mr Balasupramaniam Krishna, the neighbourhood committee chairman of Mayfair Park, a private estate of 1,000 homes in Upper Bukit Timah, also said he gets just one complaint a month now, compared with four to eight last year.

But the deaths of so many monkeys worried some residents, researchers and animal welfare groups.

Ms Sim Ann, Minister of State for Education and Communications and Information, and one of the MPs for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, said that the monkey issue has been "a vexing one" for her area. Many residents complain about the animals, yet others are upset about the culling, she said.

"Even though residents may disagree over what to do about the monkeys... on both sides (they) tend to agree that public education remains very important," she said, adding that a "multi-pronged" approach is still necessary.

Under the new network, led by the Bukit Timah Community Club Youth Executive Committee, about 40 residents, students and others will spend weekend mornings at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve approaching and educating visitors.

One volunteer, Hwa Chong Institution student Joanne Ong, 17, said that in her experience, macaques were unlikely to approach people unless they were enticed.

Ms Sabrina Jabbar, campaign executive at the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (Acres), said that the root of the problem is at the reserve.

"That's where the monkeys get used to human food and they start to venture out. So if we can control this... it will gradually improve the situation," she said.

Added Ms Sim Ann: "The idea is to, over time, reset human and monkey interactions in the nature reserve."