Traps – still dangerous, still deadly.

We’ve discussed the dangers and consequences of trapping wild civets many a time (1, 2, and 3), and we’re doing so again today. Trapping is a problem that is still prevalent and remains a threat to our civets and other animals that make up our unique wildlife.

It is a worrying phenomenon. Click on the links above and you will see just how much physical and psychological trauma a trapped civet goes through. Imagine their fear and helplessness, which is a dire result of their inquisitiveness and sometimes, when the cage is baited, their desperation and responsibilities to feed their young.

civet mum & babies

Can you spot the mother civet and her two babies in this picture? Photo by Emmanuel Raphael.

Maternal instinct is a wonderful thing. As humans, we celebrate it. To most animals, it is a duty that determines the survival of their young. The civet is one of these animals – solitary in nature, but faithful to her young once they are born until they are mature enough to survive on their own. Many of these urban civet families nest in trees, while a handful of them live in the roof spaces of landed properties too. Cosy, warm, and safe – or so it seems.   

They don’t mean to be a nuisance when they scratch the roof floors. Nor when they play on the roof late at night. They are just being animals, and they mean the residents no harm. But – albeit understandably – many people don’t see it that way. Whatever that is on their roofs can seem to be an “invasion” of their homes, keeping them awake at night with all the noise that they make – so they think that it is only right to get rid of them. The next evening, the civets notice a strange apparatus lying a few metres in front of them.

Perhaps they sniff about it a little, they poke about it with their tiny paws. The mother civet notices a banana within it, and is glad that food has come easy tonight. She ushers her babies back into the roof spacing, and ventures into the metal opening. She takes the banana, and the door of the cage flings shut.

This startles the babies. They try, for a while, to get their mother free while she paces within it, at times trying to run through the boundaries, smashing her nose straight into the bars. Gradually the sun comes up. The babies climb up the trees to hide. Confused, they watch as their mother is taken away by some strange people. Overnight, their lives and their mother’s are no longer cosy, warm, nor safe – or so it seemed at first.

It is hard, especially when you understand both sides of the story. You see why roof spacings are so attractive to the civets. And yet, you also see why people would not like to have something mysterious living in their homes. It is only natural both sides are acting to protect their families and to ensure the best quality of living. However, is there really no compromise that can be achieved?

Trapping is a horrible thing. It causes injuries and instills fear within the animal. But on another level, it separates mothers from their babies too. Furthermore, it is not only the mother civets that end up getting trapped and taken away. Baby civets are also susceptible to traps. Sometimes, they lose their lives as a result of a faltering immunity which in turn is a result of the stress endured while in a trap.   

A family of Siglap civets. Photo by Fung Tze Kwan

A family of Siglap civets. Photo by Fung Tze Kwan

We have always encouraged, on our blog, for everyone to share their living spaces with our wild animals. Many of them will not even attack (unless provoked), and are more generous with their spaces than we are with ours. Remember that Singapore used to be, quite literally, a jungle. It was our urbanization that has driven many of our animals to extinction and to those that remain, desperation.

If anything, it is time to be gracious to these animals, to allow them the simple pleasures of their lives, to raise a family up in a safe shelter and be able to survive in this sometimes harsh, urban landscape. Let’s not use traps to take those pleasures away from them, and to learn to live in harmony with our native civets and other wildlife, even if it means tweaking our mindsets, or changing our lifestyles just so they can breathe easier.

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Looking back on the past 5 years

Perhaps, since our homeland is turning 50 today, it is a good time to look back on where we have come so far in the last five years of research on and outreach efforts for the common palm civets of Singapore. As Singapore celebrates her golden jubilee, we recognize and appreciate the growth and development that this country has been through since its independence.

It is heartwarming to know that despite the extensive efforts to advance into a more urban landscape, our late former Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, did not disregard the importance of having a good proportion of green in our environment too. In 1963, he planted a Mempat tree in Farrer Circus to kickstart the greening campaign of Singapore. This increase in greenery has led to more experiences with our local wildlife, which we are always striving to understand more about. In our case, it’s the common palm civets.

Our civet research work officially started in 2009, when Weiting devoted her honours thesis to better understand the growing human-civet conflict in the Siglap/Opera estate area. As a result of her study, we were able to learn how the civets have managed to adapt to urban landscapes and live amongst humans. A year later, Tze Kwan began her study to identify some key elements of the civet’s diet through the analysis of their poop, which allowed us to have a better understanding of the effect of the digestive process of their gut on seed germination and the role that civets play in urban landscapes.

The research findings have also allowed us to share with many other people, adults and children alike, more about the civets. Many of whom are surprised to find that the civets not only exist in Singapore, but are also native to the country and many parts of Southeast Asia too. Besides people, the knowledge gained has also helped civets (both locally and regionally), be it babies in need of rescue or those in conflict with humans. The support and encouragement that we receive for the work that we do have been great, and in turn we have been provided avenues to conduct educational walks, talks, and present at roadshow booths. Not only have we managed to educate, but we’ve also inspired, encouraging those that we speak to to be kind to our native civets.

Many have also come forward to share their sightings and civet encounters with us, which we are always enthused to hear about. Here are just some of our favourites:

craigwilliamsThis was shared with us two months ago by Craig Williams, who was lucky enough to spot one of these elusive creatures during his night walk.

aaronkeddie

A civet spotted by Aaron Keddie, just outside his bedroom window! Civets are extremely shy creatures, so they’ll be more surprised than you are if you manage to catch them off guard!

clarehaxbyClare Haxby shared this photo of an adorable civet hiding in her house 2 years ago. The civet was lactating then, and the babies she had then are most probably full-grown civets now.

sallycashman

This is a baby civet that was found back in 2013 by Sally Cashman. It had fallen out of its nest on Christmas Eve, and if not for Sally’s effort and care, it wouldn’t have been able to reunite with its family the very next day.

Evidently, the existence of the civet as one of Singapore’s last wild urban carnivores has been celebrated by many, though not all. And even today the civets still face a fair amount of hostility from the human residents that they encounter based on the number of traps that they innocently wander into. While traps are commonly used to remove unwanted pests from the home, they are also a direct threat to our local wildlife and should not be encouraged.

Read more about the dangers of trapping in our next post. In the meantime, have a great jubilee weekend. Happy birthday Singapore, and a wonderful National Day to everyone!

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