Crossbows to cull wild boar (The Straits Times, Monday 11 June 2012) Updated!

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Crossbows to cull wild boar

NParks looking at this and other options to curb animal population

By Feng Zeng Kun

Killing wild boar with bows and arrows may sound primitive, but the National Parks Board (NParks) is considering the method to curb the animal population.

The Straits Times has learnt that the agency met animal welfare groups last month to discuss using powerful crossbows against the animals.

It told the groups that the silence of the bows would avoid alerting the animals, which travel in groups.

In trained hands, a single bolt could also kill a boar instantly.

The method has been used in countries such as the United States, Canada and Thailand to curb their boar populations.

The Straits Times understands that most of the groups did not favour the method and considered it inhumane.

The agency said it would enlist the help of trained archers to do the job, should it decide to go with this culling method.

But it is also exploring other options.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) says it will meet the agency before the end of the month to present a plan that involves rounding up boar to sedate and euthanise them with chemicals.

The animal population has been on the rise in recent years, according to sightings by naturalists and those who live on the fringes of nature reserves.

Once thought to be extinct on the mainland, they have even been spotted around Kent Ridge – surprising researchers who believed expressways like the Pan-Island Expressway served as natural barriers.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, NParks estimated there are 100 wild boar in the forested spot in the Lower Peirce area alone.

Mr Wong Tuan Wah, its director of conservation, said: “They have been observed venturing out of the forest onto Old Upper Thomson Road and into the nearby residential area.”

The animals have been seen across the island in recent years, from Changi to Yio Chu Kang to Bukit Batok.

Dr Shawn Lum, president of the Nature Society, says boar are big and powerful animals which no longer have any natural predators, such as tigers, in the forests here.

“We have to cull them because otherwise, they will increase exponentially, and there will be more encounters between people and boars – which may not end well for either party,” he said.

He added that boar have a tendency to uproot and eat young vegetation, which could leave forests with older trees unable to regenerate themselves.

Mr Wong says that if the WRS plan is feasible, NParks will carry out a trial to ensure it can be carried out safely.

The agency is currently looking at curbing the population in the Lower Peirce area.

Other animal activists are not convinced culling is the answer.

Mr Louis Ng, executive director of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), says NParks could sterilise the animals instead.

“Culling doesn’t work because the animals breed every year. You would have to cull them every year,” he said.

Other advocate a mix of both methods to achieve the best and most humane results.

Mr Ong Say Lin, a National University of Singapore graduate who is researching the animals, says there is not enough data to know whether they constitute a threat.

A 2010 paper in the journal Nature In Singapore put the population here at 552, but the figure was derived by looking at boar population densities in Malaysia and Indonesia.

“There needs to be more information collected, both on boar numbers and their quantitative impact in the forests, before we resort to such culling methods,” he said.

In the meantime, NParks says the public should get away from the boar should they encounter the animals.

Acres’ Mr Ng says a simple measure could prevent potentially nasty meetings between man and animal.

“Put up fences. Wild boar are big and powerful, but they can’t jump,” he said.

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It is a shame that the National Parks Board (NParks) is looking into culling wild boar (“Crossbows to cull wild boar”; Monday)

The proposal seems arbitrary and unnecessary.

In the absence of quantitative studies on the impact of wild boar on our nature reserves, and current data on the growth of its population, the herd of 100 boars in the Lower Peirce forested area cannot be regarded as large or threatening.

This is bearing in mind that the animals were once thought to be extinct in mainland Singapore and have been sighted again only recently.

Our respect for wildlife must extend to their survival in their natural habitats. While such habitats are being conserved, we must also ensure that animal species are protected from human predation.

Although an encounter with a wild animal is potentially dangerous, harm is often caused through human provocation and ignorance.

The public needs to have a greater awareness and appreciation of natural animal behaviour, and be more tolerant of the few wild animals that stray into our urban territory.

Culling is just a short-term and ineffective measure to contain the number of wild boar.

As long as there remain breeding pairs, surely the population will continue to grow.

I urge NParks to work with the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society or other animal welfare organisations to implement a more viable, sustainable and humane solution, such as sterilisation or the installation of barriers to manage the population and movement of wild boar.

Irene Low (Ms)
(This leeter carries 57 other names)

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