Animal of the month: Human- Wild boar conflict

Hello!!

As part of our January’s newsletter issue on “human-wildlife conflict”, we have an animal of the month-  wild boars. With the recent incidents involving wild boars, they are currently the most hot-topic animal in Singapore’s news and have unfortunately received a lot of negative publicity.

Our newsletter aims to get people to better understand that we can actually live in harmony with wild life, including wild boars and understand that they are not a crazy threat to be eradicated. With increasing urbanisation, encounters with wild boars will likely increase. However, these encounters need not turn into conflicts. Similar to managing conflicts in every relationship, we humans need to know why they react the way they do and how we can respond to them.

Animal of the month

all-about-wild-boars---3437226Picture source: Channel Newsasia

About wild boars

  • Wild boars are native to Singapore.
  • An adult boar can weigh up to 100kg and they live for more than 20 years.
  • They have an omnivorous diet that mainly consist of insect larvae, seeds and tubers. Female boars start to breed around 18 months and they can each produce four to six piglets a year.
  • In 2014, AVA received 30 wild-boar related reports but that has increased to 190 between January and September in 2017

Increasing encounters

In 2014, AVA received 30 wild-boar related reports but that has increased to 190 between January and September in 2017. Wild boars are typically found in forested area, such as Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Central Catchment Nature Reserve. Reasons for their increased sightings could be attributed to a decreasing habitat and food sources due to urban development, their quick reproduction rates and lack of natural predators.

Urban development

With increasing urbanisation, buildings are encroaching into nature spaces. Our forests are highly fragmented and tightly packed amongst the urban environment. As people are living closer to where the boars typically roam, it is inevitable that they will encounter more wildlife.  The shrinking habitat and food sources also forced native wildlife to adapt to seek food and shelter in urban areas.

Lack of natural predators

Other reasons for the increased sighting could be due to the boars’ quick reproduction rate and lack of natural predators. In natural ecosystems, apex predators like tigers would be regulating wild boar populations. As tigers and leopards have long gone extinct in Singapore, this allowed the wild boars to get free roam of the forests today.

Their quick reproduction rates, presence of ideal foraging habitats and the lack of natural predators could have contributed to their growth. However, some experts think that the higher number of sightings is not linked to their growth but rather more encounters.

Increasing conflicts

Often, bad encounters with wildlife often leads to what we coined the “human-wildlife conflict”.

infographic--singapore-boar-encounters-in-2017

Picture credits: Channel Newsasia

Major conflicts

  1. In July, a woman walking her dog in Windsor nature park was gored in her leg by a wild boar. After the incident, ACRES published an advisory notice and parks have put up signs in the vicinity to warn the public to keep their dogs firmly leashed and distract their dogs from confronting the wild pig.
  2. In September, five people were taken to the hospital after two road accidents involving wild boars.
  3. In October, a wild boar charged at a man walking to Hillview MRT station. He spotted the animal approaching him and as he tried to run, he lost his balance and fell. The 44-year old man suffered cuts to his legs.

These negative encounters left the public uncomfortable or even fearful of wild boars. The sensationalization of these negative encounters exacerbated the human-wildlife conflict and led to wild boars being perceived as major threats. With human-wildlife encounters expected to rise, what is the way forward?

45a-ns-wild_boar_signaords_warning-050717

Picture source: The Straits Times

Understanding

Wild boars have been portrayed as unpredictable and dangerous. However, there are signs to indicate that the animal is feeling stressed or cornered. With a better understanding of wild boars’ behaviours, encounters with them need not be cause for alarm. Furthermore, encounters need not turn bad and conflicts could be prevented. What should you do when you encounter one?

  1. Do not feed them. It is found that areas where people were attacked by wild boars were also places where they thrive due to feeding. Feeding of wild animals, often due to good intentions, would draw them out from their natural habitat. When wild animals associate humans with food, they will continue to explore outside their habitats, returning for food and may even be conditioned to approach humans for food. This would increase chances of potential conflicts.
  2. Do not agitate them, make sudden movement or loud noises. Simply move away calmly and slowly. Sometimes, when wild boar appears to be following you, it might be because they have been conditioned to see human as food suppliers.
  3. Do not confront or corner them. Wild boars will attack and chase if they feel threatened when cornered. As they are larger and potentially aggressive, they are best left alone. If they are causing inconvenience, report to the authorities who are trained to handle them safely.
  4. Do not approach piglets/ litter of piglets and keep your distance as the sow may be in the vicinity. Female boars are very protective of their young and can be provoked easily.

Our development have infringed into their natural habitat and disrupted the natural equilibrium.  To restore this, we have intervened often in the form of management and policies. For example, NParks made the decision to cull wild boars since 2014. Yet, the policies are not as effective as seen from the increasing human -wild boar conflict. Perhaps, the solution to resolving the human-wild boar conflict is not to eliminate wild boars but to learn to live with them. This would require an understanding of their behaviour and in response, reacting appropriate. For example, feeding the wild boars can cause the population to thrive. Yet,  the effectiveness of warnings and signs have been negated by a lack of compliance and there were still sightings of residents feeding the wild animals. 

The recent trend of wild boars being sensationalised as a major threat is misleading. Harmonious coexistence of wild boars and humans is very possible if we have better understanding of them and their behaviour. Good management and practices on our part would also help to reduce the conflict. We are fortunate that we can enjoy green spaces and wildlife in close vicinity. Learning to appreciate and finding ways to live harmoniously with wild life is a challenge that urbanised cities like Singapore will have to tackle.

Written by Pang Hui En and Rachel Oh

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