What is Human-Wildlife Conflict?

Not only is the city of Singapore home to a population of 5.4 million people, but also a large variety of native wildlife.  With over 537 species of birds, reptiles and mammal species and a growing human population, human-wildlife conflicts are becoming more common.

As we urbanize and develop more, natural habitats for wildlife shrink, often leading to fragmented forests. With increased habitat loss, our native wildlife is forced to adapt and seek food and shelter in urban areas. It is important that we appreciate our biodiversity and strive to move towards a progressive society where we learn to co-exist with these animals. 

Therefore, this campaign aims to overcome human-wildlife conflict in Singapore by:

  • Conducting roadshows at habitat hotspots to raise awareness and educate members of public on human-wildlife co-existence by working closely with Town Councils
  • Encouraging student projects that will aim to address the root cause of the problem
  • Promoting preventative measures to address conflict instead of culling

To learn more about what to do when you encounter some of the commonly seen wild animals in Singapore, please click on the respective “Read more” buttons. You can also download the respective advisory sheets for each animal. 

The Wildlife Management Team can also conduct a Wildlife Etiquette sharing session for property managers, staff and/or residents of estates and locations that experience close contact with wildlife. The session will cover different topics like the Do’s and Don’t’s when encountering native wildlife, answer questions, and clarify any misconceptions or doubts about particular native wildlife. Please click here to download the proposal for more information on the sharing session. A session can be arranged by emailing wildlifemanagement@acres.org.sg.

Long-tailed Macaques

Macaques refer to monkeys in the genus Macaca. The long-tailed macaque or crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis) is the only macaque native to Singapore. They are also the most common species of non-human primate in Singapore and are characterised by their long tails. Adults have white fur on their eyelids, whiskers on their cheeks and are brown and grey in colour. Babies are born with a black coat.

Image Credit: Sabrina Jabbar 

Why am I seeing a macaque in my neighbourhood?

Macaques live at forest edges. As a result of urbanisation, humans are moving closer to forest edges, and therefore closer to the natural living spaces for macaques. This increases the zone of interaction between humans and macaques.

If you see a lone macaque in a residential or urban area, he/she is likely to be a transient individual who is moving through the area. Transients leave their troop to join another troop or form a new troop when they reach maturity. As their habitats have become increasingly fragmented due to rapid urban development, these native animals use park connectors, green corridors, residential and industrial areas to cross through, which may take up to 3 weeks.

Being general feeders, macaques eat a wide range of food. Living close to humans, some long-tailed macaques have learned to associate humans with food. This is due to several reasons, including feeding by people who may think they are doing an act of kindness. Macaques have also learned to scavenge for food in dustbins, and enter houses and shops to look for food. These are just some of the many things the intelligent monkeys have learned from living close to us.

Why should we protect our macaques?

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. Singapore’s Wildlife Act prohibits killing, trapping, taking or keeping of all wildlife including long-tailed macaques, who are also classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

What are some threats to macaques in Singapore?

Unfortunately in Singapore, interactions with humans can result in macaques paying the price with their lives – when their behaviour is altered due to human interactions, potential conflict situations can arise. Complaints from people can result in macaques being captured for relocation, which causes a lot of stress for the macaque. When proper wildlife etiquette is not followed, and injury to humans happens, there is also a high chance for the macaque to be captured and euthanised. Macaques are also frequent victims of roadkill, with over 20 individuals reported in a year (2020 ACRES records).

What should I do if I see macaques in forested areas, green spaces, parks and park connectors?

These areas are the macaques’ natural homes and foraging grounds, and it is important to give them space in their own habitat. If you see them in any of those areas, keep a distance. Do not go close to take photos, and do not use flash.

If you need to pass by a troop of macaques, just calmly walk by, and do not stare or maintain eye contact as that might be interpreted as a threat. Also do not mimic any facial expressions that you see on macaques, such as grinning with your teeth exposed or yawning.

Do not carry any food or drinks in your hand or in plastic bags – if you have food items with you, keep them well-packed inside your bag.

If you are walking a dog, keep your dog on a tight leash, and increase the distance between the macaque(s) and your dog as far as possible. Try to position yourself to walk in between the macaque(s) and your dog.

What should I do if I see a macaque in my neighbourhood or backyard?

Do not feed macaques or allow any access to human food sources (directly or indirectly), as these will only encourage them to stay longer in the area. Macaques have enough food in the forest. According to the Amended Wildlife Act, feeding of wildlife is an offence that carries a fine of up to S$10,000.

Practise proper food waste management. Throw all food waste into bins and secure bin lids with a bungee cord or by placing something heavy on top.

Do not leave food in the open on your kitchen tables; store them inside the refrigerator or in opaque containers. If you have pet food in your house, keep it similarly stored out of sight. Secure accessible cupboards with child safety straps.

Although it might be a temporary inconvenience, keep your windows and doors closed for the short period that you see the macaque moving around, usually in the mornings and late afternoons. This will be helpful in encouraging the macaque to leave the area due to lack of access to food.

If you have fruit trees in your garden, harvest the ripe fruits as soon as possible and wrap unripe fruits with a cloth or mesh bag.

What work does ACRES do on human-macaque interactions?

ACRES carries out education and outreach to advise people on what they should and should not do when they encounter a macaque. Macaques may be defensive if they feel threatened – this behaviour is often misinterpreted by the public as being “aggressive.” ACRES shares with the public how to read the basic body language of macaques and to be aware of their own body language when sharing a common space with macaques.

Our campaign also includes educating people about keeping food out of sight and proper food waste management in order to minimise visits and interactions with macaques. Empowering people to understand and respect their wild neighbours is key to what we do.


Advisory sheets for Long-tailed macaques

Please click here to download the ACRES advisory note Long-tailed Macaques

For infographics in English click here

For infographics in Chinese click here

Please click here to download the joint advisory brochure on Long-tailed Macaques

Please click here to download the advisory brochure on Long-tailed Macaques

Civets

Civets are omnivorous animals who mainly feed on fruits, and also a variety of insects, small snakes and even birds. These creatures are shy, arboreal and mainly nocturnal, and are rather successful in urban areas. Although they are often called cats, civets belong to the family Viverridae and are not cats. With their black-and-white face markings, people sometimes also misidentify them as raccoons or badgers, who do not exist in Singapore!

Why am I seeing civets in my neighbourhood or in my house?

Common Palm Civets are well adapted to urban spaces with fruiting trees, and due to their fragmented natural habitats, they are sighted in certain residential areas, which provide suitable food and nesting areas.

At times, we have observed civets using the attic space in the roof/ceiling of a house to nest. This happens due to the availability of gaps for access and the preference for a warm, quiet and sheltered nesting space for the baby civets.

What can I do if I see a civet in my roof space or false ceiling?

To prevent civets nesting in your ceiling, you may implement the following methods of exclusion which are humane and long-term:

  •  Identify and block their access routes to the building. Trim all branches that overhang into your property or over your house. Wrap external pipes with a smooth and durable surface (such as aluminium or acrylic) for at least a length of 60cm. Such a surface will prevent climbing access as the civet will not be able to get a foothold. However, these wrappings need to be maintained and changed if rusty.
  • Identify their entry and exit points to the roof and search for any gaps in the false ceiling/attic that serve as a potential entry/exit. Mesh them up to prevent any future visits. However, please ensure that this is done only when no civets are trapped inside the roof. A good contractor will be able to check that this is done properly.
  • Civets roost in dark environments so installing lights at potential roosting spots and leaving them switched on at night will discourage them from coming back. Alternatively, motion-sensor lights may also be used depending on the position and number of entry/exit points.
  • Harvest the fruits from fruiting trees immediately after they have ripened or wrap unripe fruits with a cloth/opaque bag.

When living conditions are no longer favourable, the civet(s) will eventually move on to another site. Food and shelter are often the reasons for repeated visits and prolonged stays.

Why can’t we just remove the civets by trapping & relocating, or culling?

Trapping, relocation or culling are not sustainable solutions. Doing so will only leave a void for another civet to move in. You will continue to face the problem, as long as the habitat remains suitable for them to feed or nest. Hence addressing the root cause is the key to resolve your issue long-term. Coexistence is possible with our native biodiversity when proper exclusion methods are followed.

Advisory sheet for Civets

Please click here to download the advisory sheet on civets

Wild Pigs

Wild pigs (commonly referred to as wild boars) are native to Singapore. They have an omnivorous diet that consists of insect larvae, seeds and tubers. They are mostly active during dusk hours.

Image Credit: Sabrina Jabbar 

Why am I seeing wild pigs in my neighbourhood?

Increasing urbanisation in Singapore means that areas with vegetation suitable for wild pig grazing are now found close to urban areas. As they forage, wild pigs sometimes end up on the grassy buffer zones between urban and forested areas, surprising members of the public. However, they are shy animals and will usually retreat into the safety of the forests if they feel nervous. As long as people keep a distance, wild pigs will not approach or bother them.

What should I do if I see a wild pig in my neighbourhood?

Do not feed wild pigs or allow any access to human food sources (directly or indirectly), as these will only encourage them to stay longer in the area. Wild pigs have enough food in the forest. According to the Amended Wildlife Act, feeding of wildlife is an offence that carries a fine of up to S$10,000.

Proper food waste management must also be practiced by disposing trash properly to discourage wild pigs from scavenging. If you are walking by with food, properly store it inside your bag instead of carrying it openly in plastic bags. Wild pigs have a well-developed sense of smell, and due to feeding by humans, have learned to associate plastic bags with food.

Avoid any actions that may startle or provoke them such as sudden movements, flash photography and loud noises. Like with all wild animals, a safe distance should be maintained to minimise human-animal interactions.

If you see a wild pig while walking your dog, please keep your dog on a tight leash and avoid going anywhere near the wild pig. If your usual walking route is adjacent to a wild pig habitat, consider having an alternative route for regular dog walks.

Consider putting up a fence if wild pigs are entering your premises. Such fencing should be sunken at least 0.3m into the ground so that wild pigs cannot dig under. For existing fencing, ensure that any gaps are regularly fixed.

Advisory sheet on Wild Pigs

ACRES Advisory on Wild-Pigs

Please click here to download the advisory sheet on Wild Boars

For infographics in English, please click here

For infographics in Mandarin, please click here

Bats

Bats are important pollinators in our ecosystem. Contrary to popular belief, bats in Singapore do not harm people and have a diet consisting mainly of fruits or insects. Fruit-eating bats pollinate the beautiful flowers you see around your neighbourhood while insect-eating bats control insect populations (including mosquito populations)!

Image Credit: Kannan Raja

Why are bats roosting in my home?

While bats mostly mind their own business, our green city means that your home might be close to trees where bats love to feed on fruits or insects. If there are conducive spots within your house or estate that provide shelter and appropriate temperature, these bats might take to roosting there after a night of feeding.

To minimise bats coming to roost, you can do the following:

  • If you have fruit trees in your garden, consider pruning them and harvest the fruits from trees as soon as they start to ripen. Alternatively, fruits can be covered with cloth or mesh bags.
  • Install motion sensor lights where the bats are roosting.
  • Identify and seal up gaps between roof tiles through which the bats enter, using a netting or mesh.
  • Cover the structures to which they cling with a smooth acrylic or plastic sheet, to prevent the bats from being able to cling securely and dissuade them from roosting there.

What should I do if a bat flies into my house?

Turn off any lights and ceiling fans. Open all the windows and give time for the bat to fly out on its own. Do not feed the bat as this encourages the bat to revisit your place for food.

Remember not to handle any wildlife, including bats, with your bare hands. If unsure what to do, take a photo/video and call the 24-hour ACRES Wildlife Rescue Hotline at 9783 7782, or 24-hour NParks Animal Response Centre at 1800-476-1600, for advice.

Advisory sheet on Bats

 

Please click here to download the advisory sheet on Bats

Snakes

Our tropical ecosystem is home to a wide variety of snakes, such as garden snakes, sea snakes, pythons, cobras and more. Often portrayed as evil or villainous, these misunderstood creatures are actually shy and harmless when left alone.

 

Why am I seeing snakes in urban areas?

While most of the snakes in Singapore reside in nature reserves like Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Central Catchment Nature Reserve, they do appear in parks, canals and urban areas too. Thanks to Singapore’s Green Plan “City in Nature”, more green spaces have been set aside for nature parks, creating more suitable habitats for snakes to live in. Snakes can also appear in urban areas when tracking their prey. Species like the common wolf snake and reticulated python make use of drains to travel around and the equatorial spitting cobra may seek respite in wall cavities and behind clutter in gardens.

Will the snake attack me/my children/my pets?

Snakes do not seek to attack humans. They are generally timid creatures and only react in self-defense if they are cornered, threatened or handled inappropriately.

What should I do if I see a snake in a park or other green space?

Leave the snake alone as these are snakes’ natural habitats. Do also stay mindful of your pathway when you walk along waterways or trails. If the snake is cornered, move away slowly to allow the snake to escape. Do not wave a stick or object in front of the snake, as this can be perceived as a threat.

What should I do if I see a snake in an urban area?

Snakes may end up in urban areas when tracking their prey. If you see one, keep a distance and monitor the snake’s movement. If the snake is cornered, move away slowly to allow the snake to escape. Call the 24-hour ACRES Wildlife Rescue Hotline at 9783 7782 or 24-hour NParks Animal Response Centre at 1800-476-1600 and include details such as length, thickness, colour and markings to help us identify the snake. You can also take a picture of the snake from a safe distance.

Advisory sheet on Snakes

 

Please click here to download the advisory sheet on Snakes

Pigeons

Rock pigeons are one of the most successful urban bird species found throughout the world. Food availability, predation and human interference affects their population. Their fast reproduction rate and high availability make them a common sight in Singapore.

Why am I seeing so many rock pigeons in my neighbourhood?

Rock pigeons are one of the most successful urban bird species in the world as they can adapt very well to urban environments. These birds are able to use man-made infrastructure such as ledges and building cracks as roosting and nesting sites. Few natural predators and high reproduction rates contribute to the robust local pigeon population today.

More crucially, feeding of pigeons by scattering food scraps on the ground attracts large flocks of them to congregate in one area, and the abundant food availability increases their reproduction rates.

Should rock pigeons be culled since they are regarded as pests in Singapore?

Culling pigeons has been carried out in several countries and research has shown that culling alone is not an effective method of population control (Stukenholtz et al., 2019; Haag-Wackernagel, 1995). Culling is only a short-term solution to pigeon population issues and is an unsustainable method to coexist with these birds; other pigeons will quickly come in after a cull to fill the population gap (Sol and Senar, 1995), especially if food availability continues to be unaddressed.

Culling pigeons is not only ineffective but also an inhumane practice. Poisoning is carried out using the sedative drug alpha-chloralose. After ingesting the drug, pigeons do not die immediately and are still able to fly, thus not all carcasses will be retrieved. For those that are retrieved, live and struggling pigeons are collected and contained in trash bags for the killing process. Birds can regain consciousness during this period, resulting in even more suffering.

The poison used for pigeons is also not target-specific and can harm other species or even people. They can be ingested by other species such as predatory birds, dogs and cats.

For the reasons above, ACRES alongside SPCA have reached out to all Town Councils urging them to end the practice of pigeon poisoning. Click here to see the letter.

What can we do to manage the pigeon population instead?

A multifaceted approach needs to be taken, that can tackle the main contributing factors to pigeons being a local pest problem. These measures should aim to reduce the availability of food from humans and modify our urban infrastructure to decrease the pigeons’ reliance on it. A study done by NParks during the circuit breaker period showed that there was a significant drop in the number of pigeons at feeding hotspots due to the lack of food available (Soh et al., 2021).

Examples of food reduction and infrastructural modifications include:

  • Do not feed pigeons
  • Dispose of waste properly in secure rubbish bins
  • Clear your leftover food at eateries
  • Make roosting surfaces sloped/slippery or narrow
  • Install bird spikes on top of walls and air con ledges to prevent roosting/nesting
  • Cover gaps in walls or roofs with wire mesh to prevent nesting

References for Pigeons:

Haag-Wackernagel, D. (1995). Regulation of the street pigeon in Basel. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 23(2), 256-260.

Soh, M. C.K., Pang, R. Y.T., Ng, B. X.K., Lee, B. P.Y.-H., Loo, A. H.B., & Er, K. B.H. (2021). Restricted human activities shift the foraging strategies of feral pigeons (Columba livia) and three other commensal bird species. Biological Conservation, 253(108927).

Sol, D., & Senar, J. C. (1995). Urban pigeon populations: stability, home range, and the effect of removing individuals. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 73, 1154-1160.

Stukenholtz, E. E., Hailu, T. A., Childers, S., Leatherwood, C., Evans, L., Roulain, D., Townsley, D., Treider, M., II, R. N. P., Ray, D. A., Zak, J. C., & Stevens, R. D. (2019). Ecology of Feral Pigeons: Population Monitoring, Resource Selection, and Management Practices. IntechOpen.

Advisory sheet on Pigeons

Please click here to download the advisory sheet on Pigeons

Otters

Otters need no introduction in Singapore. They were believed to have gone extinct in Singapore in the 1960s due to heavy pollution of the rivers, but returned in the 1990s. They are thus testament to the success of the river cleanups during the intervening decades. The species that we see most commonly in Singapore is the smooth-coated otter.

Image Credit: Jocelyn Chng

Is the population of otters in Singapore growing out of control?

Otters are native vulnerable species with no known overpopulation in Singapore. Their numbers are naturally managed by limitations such as territorial competition and the low survival rate of newborn pups. They also become unfortunate victims of road traffic accidents. Otter families can occupy a large area as their territory, and will defend their territory fiercely against other families. It is difficult for new families to form and find enough resources to breed in an environment where competition is already tough. Thus, the otter population in Singapore is controlled naturally.

It may seem like there are more otters now, given the high-profile media coverage. However, this may simply mean otters are learning to be more adaptable to using our man-made infrastructure to travel around. Given their cute and charismatic appearances, people like to showcase otters in the media, thereby directing more public attention to the presence of otters.

Will otters attack me/my children/my pets?

Like with most animals, otters will only be defensive when provoked, taunted, or cornered. Adult otters can also be particularly protective of their pups. Always appreciate otters from a safe distance, as with any other wild animal. Do not approach them close to take photographs, charge towards them, or walk between adults and their pups. If you are walking a dog, keep your dog on a tight leash and try to take a route around the otters rather than walk through their path.

I see a lone otter lying on the ground – does he/she need help?

It is common to encounter a lone otter as he/she could be an otter hunting alone or a male otter in search of a new group. You can observe from a distance for some time; if the otter eventually gets up and leaves, he/she is most likely fine. If you do notice that the otter is injured, you can call the 24-hour ACRES Wildlife Rescue Hotline at 9783 7782 or the 24-hour NParks Animal Response Centre at 1800-476-1600.

Why are otters coming into my residence?

Otters look for a long-term place that is unoccupied by any competing families to settle down. Therefore, otter families are constantly searching for new suitable locations and are naturally drawn towards bodies of water. Coupled with their curious nature, they may sometimes wander into your residence.

To prevent intrusions of otters into your residence or eating your fish, you may implement the following methods of exclusion which are humane and long-term:

  • Identify otters’ entry and exit points and block their access routes by meshing up gaps in gates or fences.
  • Build barriers around fish ponds. Make sure the barriers are sturdy, slippery and tall enough (more than 1.3m) to prevent climbing access. If wired fences are used, ensure the gaps within the fences are dense enough to prevent otters from accessing through the gaps, as otters can squeeze through gaps of only 15cm.

 

Please click here to download the advisory sheet on Otters

Please click here to download the Otter Exclusion Measures

Monitor Lizards

Monitor lizards can be commonly found in our nature parks, slowly combing through leaf litter or having a swim. The Malayan water monitor, as the name suggests, is an excellent swimmer and can be seen in our canals and waterways. The less-commonly seen clouded monitor is smaller in size and prefers the trees. Their sharp claws make them excellent climbers.

Image Credit: Genevieve Fong

Why are monitor lizards entering my garden/condo premises?

Monitor lizards in Singapore mostly live in nature parks and along canals and waterways. However, thanks to Singapore’s Green Plan “City in Nature”, more green spaces have been set aside, and some residential areas are built very close to nature parks and park connectors. Thus, if your residence is located next to a park or park connector, it is inevitable that monitor lizards might enter as they move about looking for prey.

Will the monitor lizard attack me/my children/my pets?

Monitor lizards are shy creatures and they do not seek to approach humans unless threatened or provoked.

When you encounter a monitor lizard, whether in a park/park connector or in a property, it is best to leave them alone, and do not chase or corner them. You can observe them from a distance, and they will usually leave on their own upon spotting you.

How do I prevent monitor lizards entering my premises or eating my fish?

  • Identify monitor lizards’ entry and exit points and block their access routes by meshing up gaps in gates or fences.
  • Build barriers around fish ponds, such as a glass barrier or slippery acrylic barrier.