Singapore to Cull Wild Boar Population in Lower Peirce

By webadmin on 03:36 pm Aug 20, 2012
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Grace Chua And David Ee

The National Parks Board (NParks) has decided on a method to control the wild boar numbers in Lower Peirce.

It told The Straits Times that it will round them up before vets sedate them with dart guns and euthanize them with drug injections.

But it did not say when the culling will begin or how many animals will be involved.

The wild boar population in Lower Peirce has been getting out of hand, said NParks, as the animals root around for worms and insects, snap off saplings for use as nest material and pose a safety hazard when they cross roads.

They have been in the spotlight this year — in June, two animals attacked a security guard and a boy.

There are at least two herds of about 40 animals each in Lower Peirce, a population that NParks said is unsustainable.

Its decision to cull them, first publicized in June, has upset conservationists and animal welfare groups that are calling for relocation or sterilization instead.

They said there is not enough data to show that the boars are causing long-term damage to the forest.

NParks conservation division director Wong Tuan Wah said that while studies of long-term forest damage have not been done here, wild pigs have been shown to slow forest regrowth in other countries. By the time data is collected here, he pointed out, the unchecked population might be too much for local forests.

Nature Society Singapore (NSS) president Shawn Lum agreed, citing research by ecologist Kalan Ickes of Clemson University in the United States. The latter’s work on wild pigs in Malaysia’s Pasoh forest reserve shows that wild pigs’ nesting habits were responsible for 29 percent of young sapling deaths and that the pigs specifically targeted the economically and ecologically important family of hardwood trees called dipterocarps.

The NSS is doing surveys to find out whether boar activity is linked to the availability of food sources such as oil palm and sea apple. The surveys will go on until at least next month.

If the link is confirmed, the answer is to clear out exotic species like oil palm, said Tony O’Dempsey, chair of the NSS’ vertebrate study group.

In fact, this is what NParks wants. It aims to reforest Lower Peirce with dipterocarps and other native species, Wong said. But as long as wild pigs are rooting up turf there, the native trees will not stand a chance.

In the most recent draft of the NSS position paper on wild pigs, it said that, even as the number in Lower Peirce needs to be “substantially reduced immediately”, long-term action must be taken to stop the number from increasing.

It recommends studying wild pig populations in the central catchment nature reserve to work out optimal population density for its secondary forests.

In the early and mid-1990s, NParks surveys did not record any wild boar in mainland forests but it has made a comeback in the last decade. Over-population put it on the NParks radar two years ago and, for the last year, two conservation officers have kept watch on the Lower Peirce herds. One has been chased up a tree for his pains.

So why have the numbers grown? The boars may have swum over, driven out of neighboring Johor’s wild areas by development projects.

Over here, they lack predators like tigers, have rich sources of food such as oil palm and are seldom hunted or poached, said Ong Say Lin, who studied the animal last year as a student at the National University of Singapore.

The boars often travel in herds of up to 40 and have been sighted in Upper Bukit Timah, Ubin Island and Lim Chu Kang.

Most opponents of culling believe the animal is not aggressive but it can be unpredictable if humans wander into its area.

“A better understanding of these animals and interpretation of their behavior would reduce any hysteria or sensationalization,” Ong said.

Reprinted Courtesy The Straits Times