SINGAPORE: The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and National Parks Board (NParks) have removed a monkey in Kent Ridge Park in order to “ensure public safety”.
The long-tailed macaque, which was befriended at the start of this year by Normanton Park resident Madam Prema, is now with wildlife rescue organisation Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) for “rehabilitation”. This is so that Chippy can “hopefully be wild and free again rather than be held captive,” said ACRES’ Executive Director Louis Ng.
In a joint statement, NParks, AVA and ACRES said they were working together to rehabilitate the monkey. “The main objective is to wean the monkey off human food, so as to reverse the monkey’s dependence on humans caused by the feeding and interaction with the monkey by members of the public.”
They added that the rehabilitation process usually takes a few months, though this could differ from monkey to monkey. ACRES has, they said, also had successful cases of rehabilitating monkeys and reintroducing them back to the forest before.
The monkey was removed from the park last Thursday (Aug 11).
Channel NewsAsia had earlier reported that Mdm Prema and her family had wanted to send the monkey, which they named Chippy, to a UK sanctuary after expressing concerns about its ability to survive in the wild.
Chippy’s fate has garnered widespread international attention, with a petition started by Jan Garen, director of the Wales Ape and Monkey Sanctuary, receiving more than 4,600 signatures as of Aug 18. Prominent figures have also taken a stand, with rock band Queen’s guitarist Brian May signing and sharing the petition on his Twitter account.
Save Chippy !!! ; Please help now ! ; https://t.co/YnpGjzGYdi?ssr=true ;Bri— Dr. Brian May (@DrBrianMay) August 12, 2016
While Mdm Prema and her family are willing to bear the cost of sending the monkey to the UK, people signing the petition have also pledged money to help. The cost of the sending the monkey to the sanctuary includes the cost of export permits, medical checks, crating and freight. It could come up to about S$6,000.
CHIPPY NOW ‘EVEN MORE TAME’
Mdm Prema had first seen and befriended Chippy at the beginning of this year. Since then, she had been returning to the park twice a day to visit and play with him.
She told Channel NewsAsia in June that there may be reason to believe he was kept as an illegal pet which was released into the wild, and would therefore have problems surviving on his own. “From day one he was lost and wanted to be close to humans and touch us,” she said then. “He was rolling at our feet and playing with us without food as a prompt.”
Channel NewsAsia observed this type of behaviour when it visited Mdm Prema and Chippy then.
When Channel NewsAsia visited Mdm Prema on Wednesday (Aug 17), she said that Chippy had grown “even more tame” since then.
“He understands and is able to respond to more words now…he will roll, and I’ll tell him to go and sleep…and he will immediately lie down. He can even look through the viewfinder in the camera,” she said.
Mdm Prema and her family had earlier sent footage of Chippy’s behaviour to three or four wildlife experts overseas, and they agreed he did not behave like a typical monkey.
‘WE WOULD NOT HAVE HELPED CATCH HIM’
But even now that Chippy is out of the wild, Mdm Prema and her family are now concerned about his well-being at ACRES.
“He’s got no chance with them…I’ve seen the way they handle him…I don’t trust them,” she said, citing the behaviour of an ACRES staff member towards Chippy earlier this year. In video footage captured by Mdm Prema’s daughter, an ACRES staff member can be seen waving and banging a long stick on the ground in front of Chippy in order to keep the monkey out of the Normanton Park condominium compound.
(Video: Courtesy of Mdm Prema)
She claimed that her family’s calls and queries to ACRES have gone unanswered, and she has no idea how Chippy is doing. This has, she said, caused her some distress and sleepless nights, particularly because she said she was asked by the authorities to help catch Chippy.
“Chippy was running away and would not come down from the tree. We were told that he was going to the AVA, and they promised me he would not be culled. There was no talk about ACRES, no talk about rehabilitation, nothing.”
“So I used his favourite toy to coax him down, and we captured him in 45 minutes.”
“It was only the day after when we called NParks that we found out he was at ACRES. That made me feel like I wanted to die,” she said.
“Had we known Chippy was going to ACRES, we would not have helped catch him.”
In their statement, AVA and NParks said they had received feedback about monkey nuisance and attacks in the vicinity of Kent Ridge Park and Normanton Park. “We have ascertained that this nuisance was caused by a lone macaque which was regularly fed by some members of the public.”
“Monkey nuisance and attacks often arise when monkeys are fed by irresponsible members of the public,” they said. “Feeding wild monkeys alters their natural behaviour and makes them reliant on humans for food.”
“This eventually leads the monkeys to display aggressive behaviour such as grabbing plastic bags and food containers from people.”
Since January this year, AVA and NParks have each received six instances of feedback of monkey nuisance and attacks that they are certain are related to Chippy. NParks has also received two reports of the macaque biting members of the public. But both agencies cannot be certain that the numbers do not overlap.
They added that illegal monkey feeding is an offence which carries a penalty of a fine of up to S$50,000 or an imprisonment term not exceeding six months, or both.
But Mdm Prema reiterated that while she had fed Chippy “once or twice” at the start, she had not done so for a long time. Instead, she had taught him to gather wild seeds and flowers from the park.
She also said that Chippy had never grabbed plastic bags or food from other people.
But despite the assurances that Chippy would not be culled, Mdm Prema and her family remain resistant to his being released into the wild again. “He is still subject to Singapore’s culling policy, and he could be attacked by another troop,” she said. “That’s like culling him in a natural way.”
“If he is not sent to Wales, I hope he will at least be sent to the zoo here. He will be safe, the people are well-trained, and Chippy enjoys people.”