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January Newsletter: Human-wildlife Conflict

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It’s USPlorers’ first ever newsletter! A short introduction from us: we are a group of nature-loving students who wish to bring attention to some of the things we care about. Hopefully, we’ll get you interested as well 🙂

The theme for our January newsletter is ‘human-wildlife conflict’. Human populations are rapidly encroaching onto wildlife territories worldwide. Due to the continuous urbanisation in Singapore, only less than 0.5% of our primary forests remains and our secondary forests are severely fragmented. Our wildlife hence have little space to roam around and are often forced to the edges of their homes or directly into human-dominated spaces. The increased proximity between urban spaces and natural areas, combined with shrinking forested areas, have resulted in some very persistent issues.

 Lately, such conflicts are at the forefront of the minds of many wildlife conservationists. The recent Biodiversity Challenge, organised by the National Biodiversity Centre at NParks, was a call for interested individuals to better understand and deal with such issues. Here at USPlorers, we too would like to inform you on related local and global news to give you some insight on how conflict can arise between human and wildlife, and how we can co-exist harmoniously with them.

   

I N  S I N G A P O R E 

August 23: The endangered hawksbill turtle was spotted laying its eggs on East Coast Park. Sea turtles are coming onto our shores more often, gaining more attention from the curious public. People are advised not to touch the turtle eggs when they see them, and report any sighting to NParks directly. Read the full article here

October 19: A man was injured after being chased and attacked by a wild boar. Some reasoned that the boar was likely looking for food sources outside of the forest, and eventually wandered into residential spaces built closely to their natural habitat. Read the full article here. This news followed the report on June 30th, when a woman was attacked by a wild boar near Windsor Nature Park, leaving her with a 10-centimeter gash in her right leg. Read more here.

December 30: The Straits Times reported a five-year-old was bitten by an otter at Gardens by the Bay.  OtterWatchers urged the public to give the animal space while appreciating them, to prevent such accidents from happening again. Read the full article here

 

A R O U N D  T H E  W O R L D 

January 14: In Kajiado, Kenya, the human-wildlife conflict worsens with seven elephants killed by residents. Governor Joseph Ole Lenku states that a majority of wildlife are on their farms instead of parks. He urges the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to fence up parks and compensate the community for the attacks, which resulted in deaths in the community and livestock. He hopes that the KWS would be able to cultivate a better working relationship with the community. Read the full article here

January 23: A smartphone application Roadkills was launched in India to record roadkill incidences. Many of India’s roads are interspersed with natural habitats, making roadkills of both domestic and wild animals a common sight. The application allows the public to upload geotagged photos and other relevant information. The developers hope that the data collected will be useful in helping the country manage the frequency of roadkills. Read the full article here

   

A N I M A L  O F  T H E  M O N T H
WILD BOAR (Sus scrofa)

Sus cropped.jpg

  • Wild boars are native to Singapore
  • They have an omnivorous diet that consist of insect larvae, seeds and tubers.
  • Each female wild boar can 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.

Read more on our blog

   

A B O U T  T H I S  N E W S L E T T E R

This is an initiative by USPlorers. Every month, we will be sharing news on a specific theme related to wildlife and conservation. Enjoy!

Subscribe to this on gg.gg/usplorersnews

To suggest topics or join our group, contact us at usplorers@gmail.com

 

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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

For those who call Singapore their home as well

Disclaimer: we do not own any of the images used in this article. All credit goes back to their rightful owners and sources as indicated.

Happy National Day everyone! Singapore is now 52 years old 🙂  While most of us were rushing down to Marina Bay for the exciting fireworks and performances, there were some of us who were happy to stay at home. That may include me, you, or these animals and plants!

For our national day post, let us share with you some native wildlife born and raised here just like us. Since it’s Singapore’s 52nd birthday, here’s a little bit of information about five animals and two plants that also call Singapore their home.

 

(1) The Otters!

By now, you must have heard about these extremely eye-catching and curious animals roaming around Singapore. You may not have realised it, but there are two species of otters found locally. We have the Smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata) and the Asian Small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinereus). Here are some ways you can tell them apart:

OtterInfoGraphic-1wawkgs (1)

Image by Otters in Singapore (Source)

The Smooth-coated otters are found in many places around the island while the Asian small-clawed otters are only found on Pulau Ubin. Furthermore, the Smooth-coated otters are active in the mornings and evenings, while the Asian small-clawed otters are active only at night. If you spotted when you’re in the main island during day time, chances are, you just met the Smooth-coated otter.

Otter sightings in Singapore have only started to reemerge in the mid-1990s after almost three decades of zero verified sightings. These continued otter sightings provide us with an indication of a healthy ecosystem. It is indeed heartening to see them around often, as the Smooth-coated otters are listed as ‘Vulnerable’ in the IUCN Red List of Threatened species and ‘critically endangered’ in the Singapore Red Data Book.

For more information, check out this recent paper surveying the Smooth-coated otters in Singapore here and this blog with updates on the otters here.

 

(2) The Malayan Horned Frog

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Image by Kurt (Orionmystery) (Source)

Can you spot the frog in the picture?

These frogs have a remarkable camouflage, as its colour and morphology makes it look exactly like a leaf from the top. This gives it plenty of advantages, one of which is the ability to easily prey on forest invertebrates. It is, hence, usually found on the forest ground where you would often find leaf litter, the perfect background for these frogs. The easiest way of spotting them is by listening out for their toad-like honk.

 

(3) Sunda leaf fish

Nandus_nebulosus-Sumatra-Aug06.jpg

Image by HH Tan (Source)

Speaking of leaf-like creatures, how about the Sunda leaf fish (Nandus nebulosus)? With a flat body and brownish-black coloration, the slow-moving, solitary leaf fish strongly resembles a piece of floating dead leaf. The distinct brown-colored band across its head is said to prevent the fish’s eye from being detected. Naturally, this gives it predatory advantages, letting it have its fill of small fishes and prawns without having to spend too much energy chasing after them.

The Sunda leaf fish thrives in freshwater habitats, where it can grow up to 14 cm. It is commonly found in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve in Singapore, but its habitat ranges across the Malay Peninsular, Sumatra and Borneo. Unfortunately, this fish is critically endangered, and NParks have started conservation efforts in attempts to prevent their extinction.

 

(4) Singapore Bent-toed Gecko

singapore-bent-toed-gecko_3383 (1)

Image by Ecology Asia (Source)

Aw, isn’t it adorable?

The Singapore Bent-toed Gecko (Crytodactylus majulah) is a new species of gecko from the genus Crytodactylus described in 2012. It was first confused with the Marbled Bent-toed Gecko (Cyrtodactylus quadrivirgatus) but molecular information later proved them to be separate species. It can be recognised by its maximum length of 68 mm.

The scientific name of this gecko includes the Malay word majulah, which most of us are familiar with, meaning to go forward and to progress. Its name was chosen to allude to the ‘present rapid advancement of research in the taxonomy of Cyrtodactylus, in which many species have recently been formally named, and more are waiting to be described’ (Grismer et al., 2012).

 

(5) Straw headed bulbul

Video by Shiou Ming Lee (Source)

The Straw-headed bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus) has one the most beautiful bird songs. Unfortunately, as Alex Dane from Birdlife International writes, ‘it’s this same rich, powerful melody which is threatening to silence the species forever’.

Keeping songbirds like the Straw-headed bulbul as pets or using them in songbird contests are integral in some South-east Asian cultures, particularly in Indonesia. However, this results in the uncontrolled trapping of these wild birds, leading to a rapid decline in its population. Scientists believe that there are no more than 600 – 1,700 mature individuals left, with the bulbul already extinct in Thailand and most parts of Indonesia, where they were previously commonly found. Surprisingly and fortunately, it has managed to find a safe haven right on the main island of Singapore and on Pulau Ubin.

The Straw-headed bulbul population in Singapore is now estimated to be at least 202, with the population in Pulau Ubin increasing steadily over the past ten to fifteen years. This covers a large percentage of the global remaining population, making Singapore an important location for conservation. Research projects and citizen science surveys are being conducted by Nature Society and many volunteers till today, in hope for this species to regain its voice in the Southeast Asian forests in the future.

Find out more about the status of this bulbul here (Straits Times), here (Birdlife) and here (Singapore Bird Group).

 

(6) Lipstick plant

Aeschynanthus parvifolius Tamako Kobayashi1 (1).jpg

Photographed by Tamako Kobayashi, Copyright © NParks Flora&FaunaWeb (Source)

Moving on to the plants, here’s one with flowers are so red that it’s called the Lipstick plant (Aeschynanthus parvifolius). Of course, apart from its color, it also looks very much like lipstick, with red tubular flowers protruding from dark maroon tubular calyxes. You may have seen this plant around in nurseries or plants shops. But when it is not potted, its natural wild state is to grow by climbing on tree branches or trunks, reaching for greater heights and receiving more sunlight.

 

(7) Malayan Ixora

Ixora congesta (1).jpg

Image by mygreenspace (Source)

Last but definitely not least, here’s the Malayan Ixora (Ixora congesta), or Jarum Jarum, a familiar plant that might provoke some memories! Did you know that the plant got its name ‘Jarum Jarum’ because the unopened flower buds resemble a bunch of needles?

This shrub is extremely resilient, because unlike other related species that requires full sun to bloom, the Malayan Ixora thrives in areas with very bright, indirect light. It can grow up to 1.8 to 2 meters tall – definitely taller than some of us. In full bloom, this beautiful shrub bears many clusters of bright to dark orange flowers.

 

Needless to say, this post is just a beginner’s course of the plenty of native wildlife to be explored. The animals and plants living in Singapore are just as diverse as us! While we enjoy living in harmony with our family and friends, let’s not forget how important it is to live in harmony with our animal and plant friends as well â˜ș

 

Citations:

(OrionMystery), K. (1970, January 01). Up Close with Nature. Retrieved August 09, 2017, from http://orionmystery.blogspot.co.nz/2014/08/tropical-frogs.html

BirdLife International. (n.d.). The tiny corner of Asia where an Endangered songbird is thriving. Retrieved August 09, 2017, from http://www.birdlife.org/worldwide/news/tiny-corner-asia-where-endangered-songbird-thriving

Flora Fauna Web – Animal Detail – Nandus nebulosus. Florafaunaweb.nparks.gov.sg. Retrieved 7 August 2017, from https://florafaunaweb.nparks.gov.sg/special-pages/animal-detail.aspx?id=291

Flora Fauna Web – Plant Detail – Aeschynanthus parvifolius. Florafaunaweb.nparks.gov.sg. Retrieved 7 August 2017, from https://florafaunaweb.nparks.gov.sg/Special-Pages/plant-detail.aspx?id=1298

Grismer, L. L., Wood Jr, P. L., & Lim, K. K. (2012). Cyrtodactylus majulah, a new species of bent-toed gecko (Reptilia: Squamata: Gekkonidae) from Singapore and the Riau Archipelago. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 60(2), 487-499.

Halim, E., & Kobayashi, T. (2016). Natural Heritage: 10 Native Plants of Singapore. mygreenspace. Retrieved 7 August 2017, from https://www.nparks.gov.sg/mygreenspace/issue-29-vol-2-2016/conservation/natural-heritage-10-native-plants-of-singapore

Heng, J. (2016, December 09). Straw-headed bulbuls find a safe haven in Singapore. Retrieved August 09, 2017, from http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/straw-headed-bulbuls-find-a-safe-haven-in-singapore

Hoffman, S. Aeschynanthus Lipstick Vine Info: How To Care For A Lipstick Plant. Gardening Know How. Retrieved 7 August 2017, from https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/houseplants/lipstick-plant/growing-lipstick-plants.htm

Khoo, M. (2015). Otters in Singapore. Blog.nus.edu.sg. Retrieved 7 August 2017, from https://blog.nus.edu.sg/sgotters/

Long-nosed horned frog. En.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 7 August 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long-nosed_horned_frog

Malayan Horned Frog – Megophrys nasuta. Ecologyasia.com. Retrieved 7 August 2017, from http://www.ecologyasia.com/verts/amphibians/malayan_horned_frog.htm

NParks announces that over 500 species have been discovered or rediscovered locally over the past five years. (2017). National Parks Board. Retrieved 7 August 2017, from https://www.nparks.gov.sg/news/2017/5/festival-of-biodiversity

Shiou, M. (2015, January 31). Retrieved August 09, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjiDiFgiyn4

Singapore Bent-toed Gecko – Cyrtodactylus majulah. Ecologyasia.com. Retrieved 7 August 2017, from http://www.ecologyasia.com/verts/lizards/singapore-bent-toed-gecko.htm

Species List. National Parks Board. Retrieved 7 August 2017, from https://www.nparks.gov.sg/biodiversity/wildlife-in-singapore/species-list

Straw-headed Bulbul Pycnonotus zeylanicus. (n.d.). Retrieved August 09, 2017, from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/straw-headed-bulbul-pycnonotus-zeylanicus

taxo4254 – Nandus Nebulosus. Taxo4254.wikispaces.com. Retrieved 7 August 2017, from http://taxo4254.wikispaces.com/Nandus+Nebulosus

Theng, M., & Sivasothi, N. (2016). The Smooth-Coated Otter Lutrogale perspicillata (Mammalia: Mustelidae) in Singapore: Establishment and Expansion in Natural and Semi-Urban Environments. IUCN Otter Specialist Group. Retrieved 7 August 2017, from http://www.iucnosg.org/Bulletin/Volume33/Theng_Sivasothil_2016.html

Yong, D. (2017, February 25). Singapore, the Global Stronghold of the Straw-headed Bulbul. Retrieved August 09, 2017, from https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/2017/02/25/singapore-the-global-stronghold-of-the-straw-headed-bulbul/

 

Written by Rachel Oh and Gwyneth Cheng