Overview of wild boars in Singapore
According to NParks, “the wild boar is a native animal of Singapore”, hence it is neither an invasive nor introduced species.
Also, the wild boar “is the largest resident land mammal in Singapore and found in forest, scrubland and mangroves.” (Wild Singapore, 2016)
As a native resident, wild boars would have lived in Singapore and its offshore islands long before the British colonialists stepped onto its shores in 1819.
According to an article in Wild Singapore:
“More than 95 percent of Singapore’s original 540 square kilometers (208 square miles) of tropical forest have been felled: first for agricultural crops such as black pepper, and later for urban development in the burgeoning city state.
The analysis that species that may have been lost include as many as 4,866 plants, 627 butterflies, 234 fish, 111 reptiles, and 91 mammals. Since 1923 alone, 61 of the 91 known forest-bird species have died out. As much as 73 percent of the island’s original biota (flora and fauna) has been extirpated.”
It shows the extensive damage we humans have been doing to our natural habitats and biodiversity.
With regard to wild boars in recent years, one website noted:
“In recent years, reports of boar sightings around the country have become increasingly common, with Punggol having the lion’s share. Wild boars thrive in the forested areas around Punggol, but they tend to wander into residential areas more and more frequently as their habitats are cleared for urban development.”
Imagine you are a native resident living in your natural habitat for many generations over hundreds of years.
Then, over the years, your habitat becomes smaller and smaller as an invading species have been encroaching your living space with their buildings and roads.
Your space to forage for food becomes limited, and soon even your resting place gets disturbed by construction works.
As a territorial creature, wouldn’t you be stressed and defensive when intruders approach your last refuge in the tiny fragment of forested area?
Lest anyone think the above scenario is just a figment of imagination, let’s study wild boar incidents in recent years.
How wild boar roadkill and attacks on humans are linked to deforestation
In 2016, development works began in Lentor (Tagore) forest despite calls from Nature Society (Singapore) (NSS) and nature enthusiasts to preserve it.
The destruction of Lentor forest would inevitably have resulted in wild boars becoming displaced and wandering out of the forest onto roads.
On 21 Apr 2016, a wild boar crossed Seletar Expressway (SLE) and was killed by a motorcycle.
On 23 Apr 2017, a wild boar crossed Lentor Ave and was killed by a moving car.
On 29 Sep 2017, another wild boar crossed Lentor Ave and was hit by moving vehicles.
Similarly, a spate of animal roadkills, including a road accident involving a pregnant wild boar, along Mandai Road occurred in 2018.
According to Dr Ho Hua Chew from Nature Society (Singapore):
“Vegetation in Mandai is already fragmented. Coupled with construction work there, animals will venture out onto the roads in an attempt to reach another patch of forest.”
“Mr Subaraj Rajathurai, director of Strix Wildlife consultancy, said that many pockets of nature had been removed for housing development in recent years, causing wildlife to lose their habitats and wander around looking for food.”
On 17 Nov 2020, a wild boar charged at a woman walking along Sungei Api Api in Pasir Ris.
As noted by a resident Mr Pillai:
“The western end of the park, bordering a thickly-vegetated area where sightings of wild boars are commonplace has been cordoned off for some development. At the same time, the parcel of forested land flanking Sungei Api Api is being cleared for BTO development.”
What we can do to avoid future conflicts with wild boars for everyone’s safety
Around the same time, it was reported that an inquisitive wild boar came to check out some food on a woman’s bicycle in Pulau Ubin, who wasn’t injured in the incident.
This episode disproves the assumption that wild boars become aggressive when food is made available by humans.
To be clear, I don’t encourage the feeding of wild boars in general (not referring to the Ubin incident which doesn’t show feeding).
However, as shown by the recent wild boar attacks, the wild boars tend to be aggressive when feeling stressed or cornered by human intruders in their fast-diminishing dwelling places due to deforestation.
We urgently need to find safer and greener alternatives to clearing our few remaining forests for development without causing further harm to our native wildlife (and ultimately to ourselves).
For example, Tengah forest is being cleared to make way for roads and buildings, but there are wild boars residing there.
Similarly, a wild boar was recorded in an EIA conducted at Bukit Batok Hillside Park, which is being considered for development.
Imagine if these wild boars will be stressed as their habitat gets increasingly disturbed.
We certainly do not want a repeat incident of wild boars attacking humans out of fear or desperation for their lives and their disappearing homes in future.
An alternative to forest removal has been suggested by NSS.
“Future sites, such as the Paya Lebar Airbase when it is relocated from 2030, could be used to make up for the shortfall, the NSS proposed.”
Moreover, a news report dated 25 Sep 2020 says Singapore’s population falls for the first time in ten years.
With the Covid-19 pandemic affecting everything this year and causing loss of income for many, it is likely that fewer people will buy new flats in the coming years.
Instead, they may prefer to rent rooms or flats, instead of or while waiting to buy new flats, in order to avoid or minimise the risk getting into debt from having to pay mortgage every year.
Thus, it is time for our authorities to stop any further deforestation and slow down housing construction.
At the same time, they need to focus more on redeveloping under-utilised lands such as golf courses and old/abandoned commercial/industrial buildings (which will benefit from a new lease of life).
As the HDB CEO Dr Cheong Koon Hean also acknowledged:
“As more developments use up land space, it is inevitable that future development would come from recycling what urban planners call brownfield sites. We will soon transit into a redevelopment mode where existing land and properties is`recycled’ for new use and new forms of developments. In fact, our leasehold land system is essential for us to achieve a virtual cycle of land recovery, continually rejuvenating our city and housing estates for future generations.”
(From “From Grid to Green: The Plans that Shape our City State“, 14 November 2019)
The hospitality industry should also consider restructuring their policies to accommodate long-term guests for our residents, if the accommodation providers want to stay in business in view of fewer tourists.