Friday, March 30, 2012

Meet the 'friendly' wild boars at the wetlands of Pulau Ubin

Meet the 'friendly' wild boars at the wetlands of Pulau Ubin
A herd of wild boars looking for food in the forested areas of Pulau Ubin caught STOMPer Animal lover's attention, who noted that they didn't seem to be intimidated by him when he went near them.

The STOMPer wrote:

"These pictures were taken at Chek Jawa this morning (Mar 30) when I went for a stroll along the boardwalk.

"Just before I entered the boardwalk, I saw this herd of wild boars foraging for food on the grounds in the forest.

"They appeared to be rather friendly -- when I went close to shoot a picture, they looked at me as if they were begging for food.

"Later, they went to the beach to look for coconuts which fell from the trees.

"I saw this sow with a litter of 6 piglets. The piglets snuggled up to the sow for protection from other predators."
Meet the 'friendly' wild boars at the wetlands of Pulau Ubin
Meet the 'friendly' wild boars at the wetlands of Pulau Ubin
Meet the 'friendly' wild boars at the wetlands of Pulau Ubin
Meet the 'friendly' wild boars at the wetlands of Pulau Ubin

Priscilla may be long gone, but she lives on in the new generation of porcine ambassadors of Chek Jawa. I don't think Priscilla ever had the chance to mate and bear piglets of her own, but it would be romantic to think of these semi-tame pigs as her descendants.

Priscilla the pig
(Photo by Ria)

Some of the wild boar (Sus scrofa vittatus) here have become quite habituated to people, and visitors never fail to be excited by the opportunity to have a close encounter with one of the final remnants of our original megafauna. However, it is important for people to remember that these are after all, wild animals, not domestic swine at the farm. While the wild boar do seem quite unafraid of people approaching for photographs, I hope that nobody is clueless enough to attempt to grab a piglet, or to stand between a sow and her babies.

Wild boar crossing! Getting close to nature
Wild boar (Sus scrofa) surprises visitors to Chek Jawa
(Photos by Ria)

Wild boar populations are on the rise in many parts of the country, and have truly staged a comeback in mainland Singapore. While the return of the wild boar can be seen as a positive development in restoring some of the wildlife that we lost over the years, there is the chance that in the absence of predators such as big cats or potential competitors such as other large ungulates, a population explosion of wild boar may occur, with severe ecological impacts for forests, especially in terms of seed dispersal, seedling germination, recruitment of trees, erosion, and predation of forest floor organisms. Saylin has been studying the wild boar of mainland Singapore, and I look forward to his findings.

Wild Boar
Herd of wild boar, Lower Peirce;
(Photo by Jon's Album)

In Peninsular Malaysia, large carnivores such as tiger (Panthera tigris), leopard (Panthera pardus), clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), and dhole (Cuon alpinus) prey upon wild boar, whereas here in Singapore, feral dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are the only mammalian carnivores that might plausibly feed on wild boar. Other predators would include large reticulated pythons (Broghammerus reticulatus), and in areas close to water, very large Malayan water monitors (Varanus salvator) and estuarine crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus). As unpleasant as it sounds, unless we're willing to have tigers and leopards reintroduced to our forests, it's probably only a matter of time before there is a need to develop a more comprehensive national plan to implement strategies to manage the population of wild boar, whether through contraception or even culling.