I am practicing yoga in one of the gazebos at the Singapore Botanical Gardens with Monique in the morning. We are just transitioning into cobra pose when I hear her say “Is that a… monkey?”
I quickly become alert to my surroundings. “WHERE?” It took me several months to spot my first monkey in Singapore, but since then they seem to pop up more frequently.
This one was trudging it’s hand through the sand and muck looking for food. Obviously, the swans did not approve. I felt honored to witness such a show down and was fascinated, alongside many others.
Monique didn’t share my sentiment. “It’s scary to me that they are so happy to encroach upon human space,” she said.
Monique had previously lived near Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, where they are known to be a problem. They steal food, break things and even sneak into people’s homes. Being fed by curious humans only serves to exacerbate the problem as they get used to human food and start to associate things like plastic bags with food sources.
The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore is carrying out what they call “monkey control operations.” Monkeys that encroach on land occupied by humans are relocated or euthanized. Sadly, euthanization is more common due to the tribal nature of monkeys. Tribes are usually wary of strangers and not likely to accept newcomers.
Animal rights groups are making a case for electric fencing to keep the monkeys at bay, but I wonder if Singaporeans are willing to accept this extra cost and responsibility, unless of course it’s instated by the government.
But to someone who isn’t from an area with these creatures roaming freely, the sight of a monkey is quite exciting and new. I see it on my friend’s faces and remember it in myself when I saw my first monkey on a trip to India five years ago. To someone who has seen monkeys before, seeing them interact with other animals like this is still quite cool. Um, that is unless you’ve had them go through your trash, like Monique.
My life has become The Nature Channel.