Monkeys a common sight in Clementi HDB estate, NParks to guide them away from residential areas
Residents CNA spoke to said the monkeys have become bolder in recent weeks, entering homes more frequently to steal food.
SINGAPORE: Monkey guarding will be carried out to guide a troop of macaques seen at a Housing Board estate in Clementi towards forested areas, said the National Parks Board (NParks) on Wednesday (Jul 20).
Monkey guarding refers to blocking the monkeys from approaching and herding them towards forested areas, said NParks’ group director of wildlife management Dr Adrian Loo.
The authorities are aware of the presence of a troop of long-tailed macaques in the area, he added, in response to queries about a viral video of monkeys leaving an HDB flat through the window in the estate.
“We are also conducting visits in the area to monitor the troop’s movement and advise residents on how to respond during macaque encounters,” said Dr Loo.
“CCTVs have been installed in the areas to help enforce against high-rise feeding of the macaques which contribute to them venturing into urban areas in search for food.”
Human-macaque issues often arise when the animals are attracted by easy access to human food or are fed by members of the public, he added.
“In these cases, the macaques will become habituated to humans due to feeding, and are thus spending more time in these areas.”
This alters their natural behaviour and makes them associate humans with food, which may eventually lead to assertive behaviour by the monkeys, such as grabbing plastic bags and food containers from people, said Dr Loo.
He advised members of the public to keep plastic bags or food and drinks out of sight when the monkeys are spotted.
Members of the public can also call the 24-hour Animal Response Centre at 1800-476-1600 for wildlife-related issues.
NParks is also keeping a lookout for people who feed monkeys, said Dr Loo.
Under the Wildlife Act, anyone caught feeding monkeys is liable to a fine not exceeding S$5,000 for a first offence, and a fine not exceeding S$10,000 for a second or subsequent offence.
Residents of Block 118, Clementi Street 13 - the block featured in the video that made its rounds online - said the monkeys are a common sight around the estate in the morning and afternoon.
One resident, 34-year-old Chia Shen, who lives on the fourth floor with his parents, said the monkeys began visiting a few years ago.
“I think it’s only recently, a few weeks back, that they started to become more daring. They will just keep going into units, because they realised the units have a lot of food,” said Mr Chia.
“(It) used to be that they only come to a few units, and they have one scout sitting outside, while the rest go inside to steal or rummage through the food, but it causes a very big mess.”
These incidents used to be very rare, but the problem has worsened in recent weeks, with monkeys climbing up the HDB block around five times a week, he added.
“Sometimes they’re inside the lift. We will see them in the lift, but they don’t know how to open the door, so when we open the door we’ll see them run out,” said Mr Chia.
The monkeys typically climb up the garbage chute area, and then up the poles that are used for hanging clothes outside the HDB units, he added.
According to the residents CNA spoke to, the monkeys can be seen on sunny days around the bus stop in the mornings, and around the HDB block in the afternoon between 2pm and 4pm.
“We don’t see (them and go) ‘Wah monkeys’, more like ‘Hello, you again’.
"We don’t see that as something unusual,” said Mr Chia.
If the monkeys come too close to the window, Mr Chia's family would hit the floor with a pole or chase them away from the windows, so as to prevent them from coming in.
“If they see that there are bananas, there are fruits and food on the table and in the kitchen, they will just come in and take,” he said, adding that his family would close their kitchen windows when they leave the house.
Some of the monkeys even know how to slide open the kitchen windows, which is why they keep food out of sight, said Mr Chia, whose parents have lived in the block for about 20 years.
Another resident, 26-year-old Kevin Cheng, who has lived with his family in the block for about five years, said he has not seen the monkeys come up to the units before. But he has walked past them near the side of the block that borders the Maju Forest.
“I just kind of leave them alone. They’re in their own world just climbing around,” he added.
A domestic helper who works in the unit next to the one featured in the viral video said: “If they’re not so near, I’m not too scared. But if they come nearer to the window I will try to chase them away and close the windows.
“When I go out and walk around the estate, I would definitely meet one or two monkeys,” the helper said. She declined to give her name.
“I don’t put food outside. Luckily, the monkeys have never come in here before,” said the domestic helper, adding that their neighbour warned them about the monkeys after the incident.
The monkeys typically only go up to the seventh floor, and they come from the nearby forest, said Mr Chia.
“Sometimes they just chill at the bus stop there, the shelter, sometimes they climb to the other block. But mostly it’s this block,” said Mr Chia.
“Their area of settlement is around there. That tree over there is their house,” he added, pointing to a cluster of trees on the edge of the forest bordering the HDB estate.
“People who actually do hiking, they will actually see them. It’s a very big family, now there are about more than 30 monkeys. You can see a straight line forming as they slowly come out, they will go through the fence, jump over the fence, and then they come over here.”
However, Mr Chia said he is not too bothered by the monkeys, as he feels that the residents are already violating the animals' natural habitat.
“They just hang around, as long as they don’t disturb us, we don’t disturb them, then it’s fine.”