Straits Times, 5 Jul 04
An island getaway - for monkeys
By Jane Ng
To save them from caging or culling, 15 animal lovers propose a haven-cum-attraction
on Pulau Tekukor
A GROUP of animal lovers has proposed that a Southern Island be turned
into a haven for monkeys, to save them from culling as well as serve
as an eco-tourism attraction.
The 15-member group, made up of mainly long-time expatriates here,
has decided on Pulau Tekukor, an uninhabited 4.9ha isle less than
1km away from Sentosa. They settled on it after 15 visits, said the
group's leader, Ms Barbara Martelli, 40, a former husbandry specialist
who looked after the needs of animals in a joint research the National
University of Singapore had with the zoo.
Its varied terrain, including a forested area and a rocky shore, can
provide different habitats for the long-tailed macaques commonly found
in nature reserves here. Also, when the deserted island becomes a
monkey haven, it'll open another area for people to visit, said Ms
'I believe there are seven monkey islands in the world, but nothing
similar in concept.' The closest, she said, is probably the monkey
mountain in France 'but the monkeys there, rescued from elsewhere,
are not in their natural habitat'.
What motivated the group to produce a long-term solution were the
nasty alternatives for the monkeys: be culled or be stuck in a cage
for the rest of their lives.
Figures from the National Parks Board and Agri-Food and Veterinary
Authority (AVA) show that an average of 43 monkeys have been culled
in each of the last four years because they became too aggressive.
They'd threatened people or become a nuisance by raiding homes and
The plan for a monkey island took two years in the making, with the
group, most of whom are permanent residents, spending about 10 hours
a week on it. They come from diverse backgrounds and include a university
professor, a consultant in travel and tourism marketing and a founder
of an adventure resort in Bintan.
They have even worked out lesson plans for experiential learning for
students, contacted tertiary institutions about possible collaborations
and written to eight agencies to seek approval for the project.
The agencies include the AVA and the Singapore Land Authority. So
far, most have given in-principle approval, but the final decision
will come from the Sentosa Leisure Group which manages the Southern
The firm's corporate communications manager, Mr Robin Goh, said: 'It's
a cause we truly support but land-use plans for the Southern Islands
are in a preliminary phase. When they are firmed up, we'll assess
which site would be best for the monkeys.'
The group estimates it will cost $1 million to get the project going
and it can offer visitors, among others, a guided trail to learn more
about animal behaviour and local myths about the Monkey God. The island's
rich flora and fauna will also allow visitors to do wildlife sketching,
nature photography or bird-watching, said Ms Martelli.
The island can take up to 120 monkeys and its first residents could
be the 52 macaques at a temporary shelter in the zoo. There are about
850 long-tailed macaques in Singapore's nature reserves. Said Ms Martelli's
brother, Paulo: 'This is a window of opportunity to save the monkeys
which are part of the heritage of Singapore. 'We've gone through so
many meetings to lobby for the cause, it'd be a bad omen to be turned
down in the Year of the Monkey!'
The project group also has a brief website Monkey
Island, with a location map of Pulau Tekukor.