BQ Live: Wildlife Education

1. What drew you to this event?

I was curious to find out about local efforts to maintain human-wildlife coexistence, since I thought Singapore’s reputation of being a concrete jungle would make this notion much harder to achieve. I also wanted to hear from expert educators what they do to ensure our community interacts responsibly with local wildlife, since I often find it difficult to get my friends to appreciate or care for our local animals.

2. What are 3 things you learned from this event? Was there anything which surprised you?

  1. There is a misconception that the government can do anything and everything when it comes to human-wildlife encounters. When people run into wildlife in the area, their first reaction is often to ‘complain to the government’ or demand a solution from the authorities. However, we should be contacting agencies like the Nparks Animal Response Centre and ACRES instead, whose work is more targeted at wildlife management and can better help to alleviate the situation. More importantly, they collect this feedback and provide education on how we should approach such encounters, as compared to government agencies who may not be able to respond in time to such concerns.
  1. Empathy is key to the tension between enforcement and education. When Cryrena shared the story of the Bird Feeder Lady with us, she posed us a question: ‘Given how persistent the Bird Feeder Lady was in her actions, should we do the fair thing and exercise the law on her, or continue advising her to change her behaviour?’ As a wildlife educator, there is always that struggle to strike a delicate balance between enforcement, which is the fairest system regardless of one’s background, and education, which is likely to lead to more long-term change. It is crucial to realise that we cannot expect everyone to think the same way as we do. A key facet of outreach careers is connecting with people and understanding different perspectives in order to mete out the most effective solution, as the method of dealing with each situation is very different. Outreach is a two-way street; it is about engagement, not administration. Hence, being able to read the ground, to listen to the perspectives of others before providing your own input, and validating different experiences are essential for establishing common ground and understanding, which would in turn lead to more effective advisories. 
  1. We are often unaware of the role we play in our conflict with animals. When Cyrena shared about the influx of complaints about the overpopulation of pigeons in Toa payoh Central, she revealed that most of the root causes were anthropogenic, such as high-rise littering, improper disposal of food waste and littering. The very conflicts that we have with wildlife behaviour can often be traced back to ourselves. Therein lies the importance of education— Singaporeans need to be more mindful of how our actions might affect wildlife behaviour, and such engagement can help them to realise how their underlying misconceptions can manifest in harmful practices.

3. Having heard from the speaker, what is 1 new insight or question you have about wildlife outreach?

What is the best mode of persuasion for wildlife outreach? Are there instances where either logos, ethos or pathos might be more effective than the other two modes of appeal, and how do you discern which to use more? 

4. What is one strategy you can suggest, to promote human-wildlife coexistence in Singapore? OR How can you, personally, encourage responsible interaction with urban wildlife in Singapore?

I think the most effective way would be for me to encourage the respect and appreciation for local wildlife when I go out with my friends and family. For example, simple things like pointing out an interesting bird, reminding them not to disturb the macaques on our hike, or raising interesting facts about common animal sightings can help to pique their interest in these animals and raise awareness on how to resolve potential human-wildlife conflict.


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