With the recent spate of crow attacks at Bishan and Hougang, Shawn Lum, president of Nature Society Singapore and senior lecturer at Nanyang Technological University’s Asian School of the Environment suggests that we have to learn how to live with wild animals.
Adapting as we transition into a city in nature
Speaking to CNA on Thursday (Feb. 16), Lum responded to questions on the reason behind the attacks.
Lum explained that crows can be extremely protective, especially when they are nesting.
A murder of crows will work together to protect their nesting area which might prompt them to attack humans within the vicinity.
“I’ve been dive-bombed by crows before and I generally kind of avoid that area afterwards, which means the crows got exactly what they wanted from me,” Lum said to CNA.
He acknowledges the experience can be scary if one is not used to interacting with wildlife.
Previously, residents told Shin Min Daily News that the adult crows became defensive after tree pruning started, which caused a few nests containing fledglings to fall off the trees.
Lum’s comments were echoed by Anbarasi Boopal, co-CEO of Acres, who told Mothership that crows will guard their young who are learning to fly.
But this begets the question — how can Singapore adapt to such incidents as it transition into a city in nature?
Learning to live with wild animals
In mitigating the crow issues in Bishan, Adrian Loo, Group Director of Wildlife Management at the National Parks Board (NParks), said the agency is working with Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council to remove crow nests, prune nearby trees, and conduct crow trapping before the birds are put down.
NParks had also set up an iron cage to trap crows in Hougang.
Although Lum acknowledges the impact of such management measures, he questions: “What is the actual problem?”
“If you think about everyday life in the city, we’re surrounded by dangerous things all over the place,” he said.
Although he has full sympathy towards people who have been at the receiving end of a crow attack, “crows, although they might frighten, they’re not really the most dangerous thing”.
Living in harmony with nature
In fact, incidents of crows attacking people are not new.
Lum posited that perhaps, people regard crows as an issue as they are viewed as a “problem species”.
“In some cultures, crows actually are venerated,” Lum said. “So in some places, these things (crows) are highly respected and in other places, they’re seen as this terrible pest.”
Meanwhile, in some traditions, killing any sentient beings is considered taboo.
As such, one takeaway Lum has from the incidents so far is that Singapore needs to learn how to adapt to living together with wildlife.
“I’m not saying we cannot call it a management measure, but again, how do we put things into perspective and then become a culture, a society that tolerates diversity in all forms, including biological diversity?”
Furthermore, Singapore being a city in nature means that the crows are here to stay.
“If we had Singapore so successful at promoting harmony between people, if we’re going to have the city of nature, I think living in harmony with nature also would not only be a good [thing], it’s something to be proud of,” Lum said.
A combination of solutions
Which leads Lum to question whether there are alternatives to simply culling the crows.
“How do you manage this? Is it either you do nothing or you go in there with the nuclear approach and just kind of get rid of them, or maybe there’s an in between?”
So while measures such as culling can be taken to tackle this issue, Lum suggested that a combination of measures to reduce the population, as well as acceptance from Singaporeans, will be required.
“They thrive in a human environment. So I guess it’s the combination of controlling them, managing the nesting areas, and at a certain point, somehow learning to live with wild animals.”
Lum also suggested an alternative action in response to NPark’s decision to euthanise the crows and destroy their nest.
“I suppose if you’ve done the pruning to discourage nesting in some of these areas, and removing nests before the hatchlings came out,” the crows need not have to be euthanised.
More about crows
Crows are amongst the most intelligent animals on Earth. They are also able to recognise and remember human faces.
House crows (Corvus splendens) are common residents in cities and towns and thrive in an urban environment. They can be found near food centres and trash bins scavenging for food.
House crows are not native to Singapore and are considered an invasive species that pose a threat to the country’s native biodiversity.
They are extremely protective of their young and may attack when they sense their young are threatened.
Top image via Canva