It is currently the case that if you want to make a report of a wild animal roaming about in a public area, the agency you contact depends on where the animal is. NParks handles animals in a park or nature reserve, while AVA does so for those in urban areas.
This gets complicated if you live in a residential area near a park or nature reserve. I can almost imagine a wild boar playing peekaboo with government officials. When NParks officers come, it goes over to the park. But when AVA officers come, it returns to the residential area.
Come April 2019, however, this will all change.
A reorganisation will see a new statutory board, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), formed to oversee all food-related work that is currently being done by AVA, NEA and HSA. At the same time, AVA will be dissolved, with its animal-related functions transferred to NParks.
This means that NParks will now be the single lead agency in Singapore for wildlife management.
So no more peekaboo wild boars.
More seriously, with the reorganisation, we hope that there will be less confusion for members of the public when dealing with incidents relating to wildlife – like the frustrating case of a man being repeatedly redirected by various government agencies after he reported two eagles appearing on his balcony back in 2008.
In addition, as Singapore becomes even more urbanised, the prevalence of human-wildlife encounters will only increase. Managing such encounters and minimising harm to both humans and wildlife will not be easy, as the areas in which both live and play will increasingly intersect.
We hope that NParks, with its expertise in wildlife conservation, will be well suited to take this challenge, especially when AVA’s cullings of wildlife had drawn criticisms from nature conservation groups.
Another issue on our wishlist for NParks to focus on is the illegal wildlife trade. After all, it is well-known that Singapore is an important transit centre for the illegal wildlife trade in Southeast Asia.
Without AVA’s distraction of having to look at food, we hope that NParks can do more to stop this illicit trade that not only harms the poor animals, but also destroys their surrounding ecosystems.