No monkeying around with Acres rescue team

No monkeying around with Acres rescue team

SINGAPORE - Having monkey trouble but would rather not put the furry creatures at risk of being culled? Animal group Acres has an answer with its new Macaque Rescue Team.

Formed last month, the team of two will arrive within three hours after a call is made to the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society's 24-hour Wildlife Rescue Hotline on 9783-7782.

If the macaque has already entered the home, the team will help shoo it away. But more importantly, the Acres staff hope to educate home owners on how to monkey- proof their residences. Said one half of the rescue team, former zookeeper See Han Sern, 34: "Monkeys are opportunistic by nature. They will go around their entire territory to forage for food."

Keeping food out of sight, closing windows and removing fruiting plants would remove the reasons for monkeys to come to an area, he said. His team has so far responded to 30 calls from homes in areas such as Bukit Timah and Upper Thomson, which are close to forested areas.

In the first half of this year, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority culled a fifth of the estimated 1,800 macaques found here, in response to a growing number of monkey-related incidents. Between January and August this year, it received 1,460 complaints, compared with 920 last year and 730 in 2011.

"Culling does not solve the issue," said Mr Louis Ng, executive director of Acres, which yesterday released into the wild at MacRitchie Reservoir an injured macaque it had rescued and rehabilitated - a local first, according to the animal group. "The problem is not the number of macaques but, rather, the easily available food sources in residential areas."

He highlighted how Gibraltar, near Spain, stopped culling barbary macaques in favour of measures such as making rubbish bins harder for monkeys to open.

Acres hopes to impress on residents that their actions can determine whether monkeys encroach on their homes. It also plans to condition monkeys to stay away from homes, by consistently herding them away. But this could take months to do, admitted Mr Ng, who hopes to convince people that there are better ways than culling to deal with the problem.

"Half of the residents think: Since the Government is culling, it must be the best solution. It will take time to change mindsets," he said. "We're not here to, say, protect the monkeys more than the people. Both parties must be protected."

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