Ask An Expert: Wildlife Encounters in NTU

POV: You’re late for your tutorial, making haste with your bag on your shoulders. There it is, lounging on the path — NTU’s unofficial mascot, the macaque. Unsure of what to do, you stop and stare. Passersby whip out their mobile phones to snap a photo of the primate. Some people walk on by while others are cautious. 

A number of animals call our campus home; macaques, snakes, wild boars, cats, dogs, pangolins. They roam where we do, going about their daily lives. The only difference is that they’re not sitting beside you in the lecture hall and typing away/writing on a laptop or tablet. It is integral that we respect their boundaries and treat them as equals.

If you ever find yourself face to face with a wild animal, worry not. Kannan Raja and Dhanushri Munasinghe of the Wildlife Management Team at ACRES (Animal Concerns Research and Education Society) talk us through the necessary actions to take when encountering wild animals on campus.

 

What kinds of animals have been spotted at NTU in recent years?

NTU, being surrounded by dense forests, is no stranger to the visitation of wildlife such as wild boars, macaques, snakes, and pangolins. Transient macaques have been seen roaming around campus (especially halls) and a wild boar and monitor lizard have been spotted in auditoriums.

How should one behave when encountering these animals? 

Awareness is very important. Here are some recommendations on what to do when encountering the different animals at NTU.

 

Macaques

For starters, do not feed them or carry around plastic bags when storing food or groceries. Use tote bags or opaque bags instead - macaques won’t associate that with food. For residents, do not leave your windows and doors open with food inside your dorm as this gives an opportunity for macaques to take it. When macaques are in the area, store your food in opaque containers, cupboards, and drawers where they remain out of sight. Please also dispose of your trash properly in bins.

Another important thing to note: do not run away as they may try to assert their dominance and start running after you.

Do not engage in a staring contest with the animal, show your teeth, make loud noises, or threatening gestures. Note that macaques who raise their eyebrows/eyes/show their teeth are threatening to fight back if the provocation continues. While mimicry is the best form of flattery, this does not apply here.

Did you know?

It is illegal to feed macaques and other wild animals in Singapore according to the Wildlife Act; you can get slapped with a fine of up to $5,000 for the first time, and up to $10,000 for every second and subsequent act!

Wild Boars

Similar to the macaques, avoid making loud noises, sudden movement, and flash photography (it will startle them). 

If a wild boar is following you, it isn’t being aggressive, but it may have been conditioned to associate humans as their food suppliers. When that happens, do not attempt to run away or hit the animal. Instead, calmly and slowly move away from their line of sight.

Did you know?

Wild boars are native to Singapore, and although they have a well-developed sense of smell, their eyesight is weak in comparison.

Snakes

If you spot our slytherin friends in trees, drains or green spaces, leave them be! These are their natural habitats and they usually come in search of small prey like rats and lizards. Be sure to look out when walking along pathways, especially at night, you don’t want to tread on them.

Did you know?

Snakes are usually timid, and will only attack if threatened or handled inappropriately.

 

What do you think are the current perceptions of animals in NTU? Are they affecting our daily lives or are we affecting theirs?

It goes both ways. On one hand, feedback from people on campus; ‘The monkey chased me and tried to attack me!’ or ‘The monkey took my food’ would suggest that they are affecting us. On the other hand, human activities like forest clearance, construction works, and high noise levels disturb them and fragment their already diminishing habitats, causing them to move closer to human settlements.  

Why is the feeding of wildlife not encouraged?

It results in a cascade situation. Feeding animals, for example, a macaque, allows it to realise that people have food, therefore associating us and our plastic bags with food. Macaques then progressively start to follow or some might say, “chase’’, people for food, and are mistaken for being “aggressive” or “dangerous”. 

Human food also contains high levels of sugar, salt, and artificial flavours that are harmful to animals, causing addiction, obesity, and other illnesses. What we might regard as a kind act actually does them more harm than good. Let’s try not to kill them with our kindness.

Macaques have natural roles to play in the ecosystem when not affected by human behaviour, for example, seed dispersal. They also forage on a variety of things like leaves, flowers, fruits, insects, snakes, and even crabs in the forest, keeping the balance in the ecosystem. By feeding them, we affect the whole chain by ridding them of their natural behaviour.

Who should one contact when encountering these animals?

Don’t panic, they will be there to save the day.

ACRES Wildlife Rescue 24 hr hotline: 9783 7782 

NTU Campus Security (24 hr): 6790 5200

 

The wildlife management team at ACRES has kindly provided their expertise on animal encounters. Be sure to stay calm, and most importantly, respect these animals! Find out more at https://acres.org.sg/

Article reviewed by ACRES