Thriving together: Embracing urban wildlife in crisis

Singapore, 30-August-2023
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In bustling urban landscapes, wildlife may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But upon closer inspection, it becomes evident that cities around the world are home not just to humans, but a surprising array of wildlife species too. These amazing creatures have adapted to the built-up environments, making green spaces and even concrete jungles their homes.

Yet, this co-existence is not without its challenges.  Wildlife in cities face dangers such like traffic accidents, getting trapped in buildings, or even conflict situations with people. So, how can we learn to live safely and harmoniously with these wild neighbours?  

Becoming a City in Nature

Singapore is one such example of a highly urbanised environment. The city-state accommodates not only a population of 5.7 million people, but also a rich variety  of native flora and fauna. The nation’s four nature reserves, some 400 nature parks, and pockets of greenery are home to some 23,000 to 28,000 species of terrestrial organisms and 12,000 to 17,000 marine organisms, according to Singapore’s National Parks Board.  

With its small land size, encountering animals like otters, macaques, pythons or monitor lizards in waterways, parks, and even residential zones during daily life has become increasingly common. However, this proximity inevitably leads to an uptick in co-existence challenges between people and native wildlife.  

Promoting co-existence with Singapore’s wildlife

OWN campaign

In April 2022, the ‘Our Wild Neighbours’ (OWN) campaign was launched by the Urban Wildlife Working Group (UWG), a collaboration between various nature and conservation groups in Singapore, including Mandai Nature. The OWN campaign was borne from the need to foster co-existence with Singapore’s wildlife by empowering and educating members of the public. This arose from the experiences of UWG members, who received an average of 250 monthly calls from the public about wild animals. Many of the issues raised around human-wildlife encounters stems from a lack of understanding and preparedness about Singapore’s native wildlife.

“As Singapore progresses towards becoming a City in Nature, a greater sense of awareness and understanding of our native wildlife is needed to help foster positive human-wildlife relationships that allow us to safely share spaces with these animals,” said Roopali Raghavan, Head of Terrestrial Species and Conservation Planning at Mandai Nature and a UWG member.

Since campaign’s launch, OWN partners like ACRES and Nature Society (Singapore) have conducted outreach efforts to raise awareness about Singapore’s native wildlife and encourage community involvement in local conservation efforts. These include participation at the annual Festival of Biodiversity organised by the National Parks Board (NParks), conducting storytelling sessions at public libraries across the island, and even featuring in Quirky Creatures, a children’s book on native wildlife. The OWN website also contains helpful resources for the public on ten wildlife species commonly found in Singapore, as well as the do’s and don’ts for animal encounters in neighbourhoods.

Keeping wildlife safe in the urban jungle

Another objective of the OWN campaign is to shed light on wildlife rescue, rehabilitation and release efforts undertaken around Singapore by various parties, and how people can play their part to ensure safe environments for the animals.  

Organisations like ACRES, National Parks Board, Mandai Nature and Mandai Wildlife Group work collaboratively to rescue and care for these wildlife as they undergo rehabilitation in their respective facilities. As one of the designated centres for rescued wildlife in Singapore, Mandai Wildlife Group’s Wildlife Healthcare and Research Centre (WHRC) receives over 1,100 animals annually. These include species like pythons, colugos, pangolins, civets and bat. 

Dr Charlene Yeong, veterinarian with Mandai Wildlife Group as well as Senior Manager of Wildlife Health and Rehabilitation at Mandai Nature, oversees the admission and rehabilitation of these rescued wildlife at WHRC and this is a subject close to her heart. “ 

The goal is to help them recover and be fit again for release back into the wild. These animals are often victims of road accidents or have been found lost, stranded, or even injured by members of the public. Therefore, it it is crucial for the public to be aware not only of how to respond to wildlife encounters but also of the appropriate helplines for reporting injured or wildlife sightings in neighbourhoods.” She adds, "helping everyone learn how to coexist with our wild neighbors is a necessity. Ultimately, the goal is to keep both people and animals safe.

pangolin rehabilitation

As urban landscapes continue to evolve, initiatives like 'Our Wild Neighbours' are leading the way in promoting harmony between humans and wildlife in cities. Learn more about how the OWN campaign and how we can co-exist safely with wildlife in our urban spaces: