Wildlife in our Concrete Jungle
Otters. Snakes. Pangolins. Slow Lorises. Wild boars. Does wildlife exist in our concrete jungle?
Kalai, deputy executive director of ACRES Wildlife Rescue Centre believes so, and so we followed him on his journey for a day as a wildlife rescue officer.
Remember the incident earlier this year, when 15 wild boars spotted around Tuas bus interchange terminal in July 2017? Little do we realise that our concrete jungle is actually a treasure trove of biodiversity: 28,000 species of animals live on land alongside 2,100 indigenous plant species!
Back to the boar situation: the reason behind them appearing and possibly causing a ruckus? The Tuas bus interchange is actually fringed by a forested area. The solution that Acres came up with was not culling or trapping, but to set up 200 barriers along the perimeter, a safer way for both animals and humans alike.
“Today was actually…a bad day,” Kalai shares with us as we start our interview with him, in the ACRES office. ACRES is the only wildlife rescue centre in Singapore, and boasts a committed core team of about 40 full time staff and volunteers. Earlier on before meeting us, he was out on a special operation to attempt to rescue an otter which had a fishing hook stuck to its body – however the op was not fruitful and the otter was not to be rescued today.
Just before we could conduct our interview proper, one of his colleagues came in, and informed Kalai that there was a monitor needing rescue from a school compound, and we had to do our interview on-the-go: in the van, in between and after the different rescue stints (with a bird, a snake, and the lizard). It seemed that animal rescue work waits for no man.
One of the issues that ACRES faces is the human-wildlife conflict and integration. Kalai shares that if we ask a Singaporean child to name three or five wild animals that reside in sunny Singapore, they would probably name the animals that they see in the zoo. However, there are more than just those zoo animals who have taken up permanent residency (and sometimes, in our hearts as well #Bishanotters).
Did you know that Singapore is the residing place of animals that are endangered, such as the slow loris or pangolin? Kalai shares these fun facts with us as he rescues a poor monitor lizard from the classroom of a school, picks up a box of an injured dove from a house, and answers a distress call about a snake that escaped into the exhaust pipe of a resident’s car. All these were completed within his 12-hour shift, at least of which is spent out on the move, answering calls from the public on their 24-hour hotline; rescuing and rehoming wildlife at the same time.
Fact: Singapore is one of the top illegal trading ports in the world for wildlife trading.
This is just one of the many important issues that ACRES aims to tackle as they conduct humane education in schools and with the public at large, spotlight issues such as cruelty-free living, educating the many industries that still use and trade animal parts as part of medicinal beliefs, tackling the illegal pet trade (hedgehogs or other “cute” but illegal animals as pets). There is so much we can do in our part to help the wildlife in Singapore, and being educated and making informed choices is one small step.
There are all in a day’s work, for Kalai and his colleagues.