Ruminations on Wildlife Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release
Written by Dr Charlene Yeong, Senior Manager and Veterinarian of Mandai Nature and Mandai Wildlife Group
Recently, a family member of mine stumbled upon a distressed baby bird on the ground in the garden. It was a young spotted dove, with no signs of a nest or adults nearby. Unsure of what to do, he reached out to us at Mandai and OWN for assistance. A quick assessment revealed that the chick was alert, uninjured, and had most likely just fallen out of its nest. With guidance, he fashioned a quick make-shift nest and attached it as high as possible in the nearest suitable tree. His efforts soon bore fruit as the parent dove returned to its chick.
(Click the arrow on the right to view the rest of the images. Photos by Alvin Yeong.)
To me, this seemingly small, yet significant event embodies the essence of wildlife rescue efforts. A compassionate member of the public noticed that one of our native wildlife was in distress and was motivated to seek help for it. He sought advice from the appropriate channels, carried out the necessary actions, and monitored the animal’s progress. Such actions have the potential to greatly influence the care and rehabilitation of these animals, ultimately contributing to the protection of our native wildlife.
As Singapore continues to progress towards the vision of becoming a City in Nature, more park connectors and green spaces will be made accessible as part of the Singapore Green Plan, which aims to develop a more sustainable and liveable city for all its inhabitants. With the expansion of potential habitats, this also results in increased opportunities for encounters with our native wildlife in a largely urban environment.
However, not all wildlife encounters are positive. Wildlife may pose a danger to humans, or more often than not, getting into strife within our urban environment, like the reticulated python found stuck in a construction site, or reptiles affected by road traffic accidents.
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More disturbingly, wildlife sometimes suffer from deliberate harm at the hands of individuals who lack an understanding of animal behaviour and human-wildlife etiquette, as seen in the brutal attack on a reticulated python at Boon Lay Market and Food Village recently. These malicious actions are often borne out of fear or ignorance and are truly abhorrent.
As a veterinarian at Mandai, it is distressing to attend to rescued wildlife that are severely injured. However, there is a dedicated and close-knit nature community working together to protect wildlife in Singapore. Organisations such as NParks, ACRES, Mandai Nature and Mandai Wildlife Group work together on wildlife rescue, treatment and rehabilitation efforts. A benefit of operating in our small island nation is that help is never too far away! With an increasing number of calls on wildlife feedback from members of the public, there is no shortage of work, and the organisations collaborate closely and often share resources.
An example of this is the case of the young common palm civet Stevie, who was rescued by ACRES. Attempts to reunite her with her family were unsuccessful and she was brought to Mandai Wildlife Group for hand-raising and rehabilitation. She was subsequently released in a suitable location, together with NParks. These collaborative efforts also encompass various partners, including NUS Toddycats, for insights into appropriate habitats and diets of wild civets, and their application towards rehabilitation efforts. It does take a village to raise a child.
Most people may not realise this, but the vast majority of wildlife encounters occur in our neighbourhoods on a daily basis. These encounters can be nurtured as positive experiences that enhance our coexistence with wildlife. These include seemingly simple actions, such as admiring the aerial gymnastics of insectivorous bats as they catch their prey around a street lamp, or driving mindfully around our nature areas to avoid a motor vehicle accident with a Sunda pangolin. Or, finding a lost baby bird, seeking appropriate advice, and giving the bird a chance to reunite with its parents. In my family member’s case, he even made adjustments along the way – improving the stability and drainage of the makeshift nest. The dove successfully fledged.
If you encounter wildlife, remember:
Admire from a safe distance.
Do not feed wildlife.
Drive mindfully and slow down.
If you encounter injured wildlife or wildlife at risk of injury, call NParks’ 24-hour Response Centre 1800 476 1600 or ACRES 9783 7782.