Crossbows to cull wild boar

NParks looking at this and other options to curb animal population
Feng Zeng Kun Straits Times 11 Jun 12;


Wild boar sighted near a condominium in Old Upper Thomson Road. NParks estimates there are 100 wild boar in the Lower Peirce area. -- PHOTO: ONG SAY LIN

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.

Others 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.


YES TO CULLING

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.

- Dr Shawn Lum, president of the Nature Society

NO TO CULLING

Culling doesn't work because the animals breed every year.

You would have to cull them every year.

- Mr Louis Ng, executive director of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society. He recommends sterilising the animals instead.

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