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  The New Paper 5 Jul 07
Monkeys downgrading to heartland
By Teh Jen Lee

THEY have long been a nuisance to residents living close to Bukit Timah forested areas.

But now, a few long-tailed macaques seemed to have moved into the HDB heartlands. They were first spotted in Toa Payoh North last month. Since then, residents have seen them climbing on the roofs of covered walkways or rummaging through garbage for food.

Housewife Chong CE, in her 60s, said in Mandarin: 'I saw them when I went out shopping. I'm afraid they will go into our homes.' Madam Chong, who has lived in Toa Payoh for 33 years, said she had never seen monkeys in the area before.

A domestic helper, Miss Marniyah, 29, said the monkeys have been making a mess near the rubbish bins. She said: 'The cleaner tried to trap them with bananas in a wire cage, but they were smart enough to avoid it. 'When you throw food at them, they will take, but when you try to get near, they will snarl. It's quite scary.'

Added polytechnic student Jaime Loh, 17: 'Their teeth are so sharp, what if they bite?'

However, residents like Mr Teo Cheok Chuan, a retiree in his 80s, are not worried. 'I don't think they are dangerous, just let them be,' he said.

Ms Barbara Martelli, director of Philozoophie, a local non-profit organisation dedicated to the welfare of long-tailed macaques, said the Toa Payoh monkeys could have been abandoned pets.

She said: 'I can't tell for sure without observing their behaviour. 'Macaques can follow a belt of trees in search of food, but if there is no extensive green area nearby, it would be frightening for wild monkeys to venture all the way to an HDB heartland.'

It is illegal to keep a monkey as a pet, said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA). Anyone found guilty of the offence may be fined up to $1,000 and have the animal confiscated.

The authorities have always warned against feeding wild animals like monkeys as they can become aggressive if they get used to humans feeding them. Signs have been put up in Toa Payoh North telling residents not to feed them.

The AVA, which receives about 250 complaints a year about monkeys, will lend traps to the public and collect trapped monkeys for free.

A spokesman for AVA said: 'The police had informed us that there are three monkeys at the vacant school, Braddell-Westlake Secondary, near Block 207, Toa Payoh North. 'The estate management agent for the Ministry of Education is making arrangements to catch the monkeys with our traps.'

Monkeys sent to AVA are euthanised. They cannot be returned to the wild because they may be attacked by the area's resident monkeys.

The number of monkeys culled have increased in recent years, from 82 in 2003 to 138 last year. In the first half of this year, 87 monkeys were put down.

Please don't feed the monkeys more about the impact of feeding and list of media articles on this issue.

Related articles on Exotic Species and pets
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