Wild dogs = wildlife?

A 13-year American expat, Jim Tietjen, claimed to have been chased and attacked by wild dogs while cycling in the Bukit Brown cemetery area (“Cyclist chased by pack of dogs at Bukit Brown” by Hoe Pei Shan, 4 Jun 2013). After calling for an ambulance and bringing himself to nearby Mount Alvernia hospital for treating his scrapes and light injuries, he lodges a police report citing “public safety” as his “personal concern”. The AVA have apparently taken up the investigation after police referral. Tietjen told the press that he hopes the authorities would “round up the dogs” instead of having them “terrorise people”.

The next day, a couple of pro-animal welfare letters got published in the same paper. Frequent letter writer Liew Khai Khiun had some pretty common-sense points in his Forum letter (“Spare Bukit Brown dogs”):

  • Such incidents, or “attacks”, are at most very rare;
  • With an increase in human traffic, there are bound to be an increase in absolute number of incidents of human-wildlife conflict;
  • Uncontrolled breeding is certainly problem;
  • But you damn well take care of your own safety by not venturing there alone, and keep to roads and better-maintained paths!

The other letter by M. Lukshumayeh  was published in the Forum Online (“Learn to coexist with animals in remaining ‘natural’ spaces”):

We lament that modern Singapore is a sanitised place devoid of the animals and livestock that existed during the kampung days.

The cemetery is one of the few “natural” places left, and it is important to let these animals remain there.

Let us learn to coexist with other living things instead of resorting to culling them.

While I agree with the last point, from an ecological viewpoint, sometimes things are not so straightforward.

Humans have brought domesticated animals with them all over the world. Some of these leave or escape captivity and breed in the wild. Some don’t. What are the ecological impacts of these animals?

Cats and dogs are known to hunt and kill other small wildlife. The Oatmeal had an interesting post on murderous cats that have been circulating around for some time now. But it’s true. That’s why we’re not allowed to bring pets such as dogs with us when we visit the nature reserves. And recently, I saw a pack of wild dogs within the Upper Peirce Reservoir area.

The ecologist in me says that the feral cat and dog populations need to be controlled. The Buddhist in me says culling shouldn’t be the answer.


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