Wildlife Education

What drew you to this event?

As Singapore moves towards becoming a city in nature, human-wildlife conflicts are bound to happen. This is where wildlife education comes in. Worryingly, in my own personal experience, Singaporeans do not seem very biophilic or accustomed to living side by side with wildlife. Some of my friends and family are afraid of things like beetles, bugs, and are wary of the Javan Mynas and Rock Pigeons that prowl our neighbourhoods. So I was wondering how to avoid human-wildlife conflict.

What are 3 things you learned from this event?

  1. There are actually many people who enjoy biodiversity in Singapore, and some of that love may manifest in different means, such as feeding pigeons.

2. The way to prevent human-wildlife conflict is sometimes to minimise human-wildlife interaction as well, especially for species that depend on humans for food such as pigeons, wild boars and macaques.

3. In our quest to make conservation more inclusive, we need to understand the reasons as to why people do certain things, whether it is feeding animals, or whether they are nonchalant, or scared. For feeders, the solution seems to be making them understand the larger scale implication of this. (I think the story shared by Cyrena was really cool by the way, really feeling the FOMO that the field trip didn’t get to proceed.) For people who are, maybe, scared, the solution may be to show them more lovable things about Singapore’s biodiversity and show them the importance of everything in the ecosystem(?); or to teach them the correct ways to avoid the animals so that they mind their own business(?). But the first step should definitely be understanding these people more instead of using any underlying assumptions we may have. By doing this, we can hopefully get more people on board and make the goal of “A City in Nature” a goal for everyone.

(More than) one question:

Actually, I am very curious about what everyone thinks the “ideal” Singapore to be. Since eradicating pigeons from our neighbourhoods seem to be one of our aims right now, is a pigeon-less, myna-less and crow-less Singapore part of the vision for a “City in Nature”? (They are invasive anyways.) Or is it a place where animals simply do not depend on humans for food at all? (Sounds good, but would we push the invasive and aggressive mynas into the forests to compete with our more demure native species? This is speculative but I am honestly not really fond of the crows at Sungei Buloh.) Will there still be potential conflicts when people start seeing more sunbirds investigating their plants, skinks visiting their gardens, monitor lizards strolling along park connectors, and otters in their parks? (or do people only have a problem with crows and other annoying birds?) We have seen some people argue on radio shows that some animals “should not belong in urban spaces.” (although to be fair this view was not permanent). If these are fundamental beliefs of some people, will there be a problem if the ‘urban spaces’ become a part of nature?

One strategy to suggest

Education seems to be the most important thing in getting people to be more accustomed to nature in Singapore. To really allow everyone to be bought into the “City in Nature” goal, I feel that more education is necessary, especially at the school level. Although the 2015 Nature Conservation Masterplan includes initiatives for the community, schools and families more biophilic, I’m not so sure about the outreach for such programmes.

Personally, I was not in the nature scene until about a year ago, where two of my friends (Yu Xin and Teong Seng, both in BFF as well :D) decided to bring me out to the Rail Corridor to see the wildlife in a seemingly uninteresting patch of secondary forest and scrub. I was always interested in animals as a kid and liked watching a lot of Nat Geo documentaries. But all I knew about Singapore was Javan mynas and the many local plants like the pong pong that my primary school curriculum forced me to be accustomed with, so my mind was not mentally prepared for what I saw. I still believe what I saw there changed my life, and I discovered a lot of the opportunities that were available. Without them, I may have never realised the nature I saw on Nat Geo was really right at my doorstep. It never occurred to me that I was living in such a biodiverse patch of land. (Of course, this was before the NCMP). So it made me think: even though there are a lot of programmes available, is Singapore’s biodiversity in the national psyche? (Other than otters, that is. Random point here but I always found it quite interesting that Progress Singapore Party’s mascot is an otter; will we get a Straw-headed bulbul mascot soon? :>) And that may just be the limit to what a statutory board or a government agency can do: numerous media reports, programmes for children, talks in schools. So as individuals who are relatively better equipped, maybe its up to us to start more ground-up approaches to educating Singaporeans about the wildlife we have; through our friends and families, so they will hopefully find out that Singapore is more than just pigeons, otters, mosquitoes, geckos and monkeys. And if we don’t get them to appreciate nature the way we do, at least we can teach them how to live with it!

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