Contractor caught in 'monkey business'

SINGAPORE - A government contractor is under investigation for allegedly setting up a monkey trap illegally in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

The National Parks Board (NParks) confirmed recently that it is investigating Mr Jack Pang after he was caught setting up a cage in the reserve.

Although he was hired by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) to capture macaques, he allegedly did not have permission to trap them in the reserve. In fact, under the Parks and Trees Act, no one is allowed to capture animals from nature reserves and national parks without approval from the commissioner of parks and recreation.

"We are investigating and will take appropriate action in due time," said NParks director of conservation Wong Tuan Wah.

News of the probe comes after The Sunday Times reported last week that almost 360 macaques were euthanised by the AVA in the first half of this year.

The number was more than the combined total for the past two years and estimated to be one-fifth of the total population of not more than 2,000.

The AVA told The Sunday Times that it had euthanised 357 monkeys this year, as of June, compared with 204 in 2010, 151 in 2011 and 127 last year.

The agency had also received 920 complaints about the "monkey nuisance" last year, up from 730 in 2011.

External contractors were then hired, or traps lent to residents to capture the monkeys, which are then released elsewhere or killed.

Mr Pang is one of several external contractors hired by the AVA to capture macaques that have roamed beyond their natural habitats.

These contractors are usually activated to catch monkeys in areas such as Bukit Timah or Watten estates, after the AVA receives complaints from the public or residents about the monkeys.

These contractors are believed to be paid for each animal captured.

Nanyang Technological University graduate student Amanda Tan, who is studying a troop of macaques in Bukit Timah, said she alerted the authorities after seeing Mr Pang set up a cage at the reserve's Kampong Trail on July 16.

She also found a second, larger trap nearby. "I have seen him trapping here before so I quickly took a picture. He immediately signalled his assistant to remove the trap," she said.

The AVA, responding to queries from The Sunday Times, said: "We will evaluate if any action needs to be taken by us after NParks has concluded its investigations." It added that it had not received any complaints about Mr Pang from NParks before the July 16 incident.

The Sunday Times believes Mr Pang is still carrying out his work, legally, while investigations continue. He declined to comment when contacted on Saturday. Culprits behind six cases of illegal poaching were either warned or fined by the AVA between 2011 and June this year. No one has been charged in court with poaching.


AVA said it received nine alerts regarding such cases this year, as of June.

Last year, there were 15, down from 18 alerts in 2011 and 22 in 2010.

Under the Parks and Trees Act, a person convicted of illegally capturing an animal from a nature reserve can be fined up to $50,000 or jailed up to six months or both.

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