Population of wild boars on the rise (The Straits Times, 19 March 2012)

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 A year ago, Mr Chang Nam Yuen heard a loud crash in his garden in the middle of the night, accompanied by grunting and groaning.

The commotion was caused by a wild boar which had been injured, perhaps hit by a car, and fallen through a gap in his fence.

The Lower Peirce resident and chairman of the Kebun Bam Neighbourhood Committee, 60, said: “We see them  every night, as many as a family of lO.”

 The wild pig or boar population here appears to be on the rise, say researchers and residents. A 20lO paper in the journal Nature In Singapore put the population at 552.

 And the porkers are rooting around in nature reserves and have even crossed expressways.

 They were thought to have disappeared from mainland Singapore until about 2000, and had been seen only on offshore islands.

 But in the past decade, naturalists and those who live on the fringes of nature reserves have reported more  sightings and reckon that the wild pigs swam over from Ubin, Tekong or Peninsular Malaysia.

 The animals have even been spotted around Kent Ridge, surprising researchers who previously thought expressways like the Pan -Island Expressway served as natural barriers.

 Now, National University of Singapore (NUS) fourth-year biology student Ong Say Lin, 25, is studying the local population of wild swine for his final-year project.

 “They have no natural predators here except for the reticulated python … and poachers,” he said, suggesting the reason for the booming population.

 “Conservation -wise, they are doing fine,” he added.

 He is trying to estimate where on the mainland wild boars live, whether they are breeding here, and if they are doing any damage to forest ecosystems.

 Their digging and rooting can snap saplings, reduce seed dispersal and spread invasive plants, but their dung can also be a food source for dung beetles.

 Human -pig conflict is another aspect of Mr Ong’s research.

 Kebun Baru’s Mr Chang said residents’ foremost concern was about safety. For instance, they worried about unwittingly provoking an attack by the wild boars in self-defence, and about cars hitting them.

 Asked if the research would increase poaching, lecturer N. Sivasothi, one of Mr Ong’s project supervisors,

said: “I think poachers already know where they are; the poachers are out there, and they are probably more sensitive to the pigs’ presence than we are.”

 The findings would be shared with the National Parks Board (NParks), he added.

 Mr Wong Tuan Wah, director of conservation at NParks, said the agency is aware of the increase of wild pigs and is monitoring the situation.

 “We are concerned because of the potential damage they can do to our forests if their population increases.

 “We are considering options, and the management plan for wild pigs in nature reserves could include culling, as they do not face natural predators in Singapore,” he said.

 He advises the public to keep a safe distance should they encounter wild pigs.

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