Our Wild Neighbours
Wildlife Rescues Told by ACRES Volunteers (Part 1)
Updated: May 16
Stories contributed by Serene Iek, Muhamad Arifdanish Bin Zainal and Carmen
One of OWN’s objectives is to showcase local efforts in rescue, rehabilitation and release of our amazing wildlife. ACRES, a local charity organisation with limited staff and one van to operate island-wide, handles a dizzying 16,000-18,000 calls to their hotline in a year.
Thankfully, ACRES has the support of their well-trained wildlife rescue volunteers who are always ready to step in to help.
To celebrate the efforts and commitment of these volunteers, OWN spoke to a few of them to uncover their most memorable moments and gather some tips on what one can do if they find themselves in similar situations.
Serene is one of the many who has been rescuing wild animals even before the pandemic struck. Up till today, she remains committed to offering aid to our wildlife and educating people on coexistence.
“I have been interested in ACRES’s work for several years before joining as a volunteer in 2019. Despite being a potato, being an ACRES volunteer made me slightly more active and most importantly, gave me a sense of fulfilment and purpose.I am especially motivated when I manage to change people’s perception or fear towards wildlife.”
Serene has attended to countless cases of birds throughout her years with ACRES. While many would think that a rare species would be placed at the top of the “most memorable” list, Serene shared that hers was a call for 4 junglefowl (Gallus gallus) chicks stranded deep inside a drainage system after they have fallen through the drain cover grill the night before.
To assess the situation, Serene and her volunteer partner attached a camera at the end of a pole and lowered it into the drain. They discovered that the chicks were alive and unharmed but they were stuck approximately 5 metres deep, diagonally.
With a little creative thinking, they attached a strainer at the end of the pole and scooped the chicks out with the camera acting as their eyes. It may sound like an easy process but Serene said it took a lot of trial and error.
The entire rescue was almost 3 hours long, until the chick was reunited with the mother hen.
“It was such a great sense of relief every time we managed to scoop a chick out. This is my longest case to date and (it) remains as my most memorable case.”
Watch the rescue footage here:
On another occasion, she received a call for a stranded olive-backed sunbird fledgling (Cinnyris jugularis), lodged between a HDB unit gate and a door. Serene shared that the young bird had most likely got itself into such a predicament from an attempted flight.
Due to the narrow space, the two volunteers decided that a clothes hanger would do the trick. They devised a plan to wrap a towel at the end of a bent hanger so the fledgling had something to grip on to. Their innovative method worked and the bird was offered what Serene comically describes as a “bird elevator service”. Soon after, the fledgling was reunited with the parent sunbird.
Speaking from experience, Serene urges the public to leave young birds in the wild as only their parents know what is best for them. If you encounter an injured bird or a fledgling that has fallen from its nest, call ACRES for assistance and advice.
“Even with good intentions, please do not ‘birdnap’ young birds (or any baby wildlife). I hope more people can understand that the adults will almost always come back for their young ."
MUHAMAD ARIFDANISH BIN ZAINAL
Arif began volunteering for both animal care and wildlife rescue early in 2023.
“I signed up as a rescue volunteer as I find genuine love in saving our wildlife neighbours and coexisting with all forms of life. I believe educating the public on our wild neighbours will help develop a shared world of understanding.”
Recounting his very first shift as a wildlife rescue volunteer, he described the morning as “hectic” as he was tasked to manage the rescue hotline under the guidance of two ACRES rescue officers.
He shared that his most memorable case was one involving a reticulated python (Malayopython reticulatus) that was found stuck in a pool of mud within a construction site. The team spent a significant amount of time guiding the python out, and when the snake was finally within reach, the python was rescued. Arif felt an adrenaline rush, but was proud for saving the snake, without causing any injuries to both the animal and the people around him.
The job was not over. The team thanked the personnel for calling for help, and spent considerable time explaining why the python was sighted, the threats they face and etiquette on encountering such wildlife.
On that same day, a black-spitting cobra (Naja sumatrana) was sighted in a landed property. In the presence and guided supervision of ACRES’s experienced officers, Arif was asked to handle this cobra. He cautiously approached the cobra with a snake grabber and very swiftly and gently got hold of the snake. The team shared that while cobras are venomous, they would always prefer to avoid contact with humans unless they are provoked or cornered. The cobra was eventually released to a suitable site, approved by NParks.
“My experiences that day taught me that co-existence is necessary and should be encouraged as we all share the world we have today!”
Carmen is one of ACRES’ long-serving volunteers. Having started volunteering since 2016, she was also previously a Wildlife Rescue Officer at the organisation.
Carmen first joined ACRES with the simple intention to learn more about wildlife rescue efforts in Singapore and initially assumed that the only role of a volunteer was to rescue wild animals. However, over time, she learnt that one of the key aspects of the job involves educating the public about our wild neighbours and how we can coexist with them.
“What initially drew me to continue with volunteering with ACRES was my first rescue of a python stuck in a drain. Despite it being a commonly feared species, I saw how a few members of the public worked together with us to help the animal, by talking to nearby contractors, Town Councils and even offering their umbrella to shield the trapped snake from the sun. Thereafter, as I joined more volunteer shifts, I learned that it was more than just rescuing wildlife. I also played the role of an educator educating people on the importance of protecting wildlife and benefits of coexisting with wildlife over the phone or during house visits. These interactions motivated me to do more for wildlife and foster a sense of appreciation for wildlife by people."
In one of the recent cases that Carmen attended to, a young common palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) was found on the grounds of a premise. The little mammal was brought back to ACRES wildlife centre for a check and rest before the rescue team attempted to reunite the young civet with its mother.
Carmen and the other wildlife rescue officers returned to the rescue site looking for eyeshine — a glowing eye phenomenon that occur in nocturnal animals. After some searching, they found an adult near the top floor of the building. Placing the young civet in a box, they left it in a secluded area near where the adult was spotted. Shortly after, the calls of another juvenile civet was heard from the roof, and an adult appeared with a juvenile tagging right behind. The release and reunion were a success!
As with any wild animals, do not attempt to handle them on your own for both the animal and your personal safety. ACRES wildlife rescue officers and volunteers are well trained and are fully equipped to manage all sorts of situations. If you ever encounter wildlife that needs medical attention or is stranded in an urban environment, contact ACRES 24-hour hotline at 9783 7782.
Continue your journey with ACRES wildlife rescue volunteers in our following blog entry where we feature stories from Waran and Rahul, and more stories from Carmen!
Can’t wait till then? Here is a bonus clip of a sunda scops owl reunion effort by ACRES wildlife rescue volunteers. Look at the extent they went just to reunite the little owl!
If you would like to volunteer with ACRES, CLICK HERE to sign up with them today.
#Coexistence is possible.