The much anticipated visit from Dr Jane Goodall had finally arrived! To kickstart her latest visit, we launched our inaugural ConservAction Week, a series of events and talks to inform and inspire the public with our eponymous founder. The first event was our first major full day conference – Human-Wildlife Coexistence in Asia: Conflicts and Mitigations. Insights on these issues were explored in the presentations from experts working on Asian primates.
After our president, Dr Andie Ang, gave the introduction and welcome message, our guest of honour, Mr Desmond Lim gave his opening remarks. He gave an overview of the history of the biodiversity scene in Singapore from the arrival of Raffles to our modern efforts for a biophilic city. After that, he summarized our local efforts to ameliorate our own human-wildlife conflicts through science, education, and outreach. Lastly, he announced two new projects we have with our collaborators, namely, a new study on our local monkeys and a “no feeding” campaign. More new details will be coming your way, so keep your eyes open for our announcement!
Dr Jane gave the opening plenary in this event. She gave a summary and several examples of human wildlife conflicts around the world. She reminded the audience that the humans living with conflicts with the wildlife are not the “bad guys”. Rather, it is their cooperation that we seek to gain in order to solve the problems. She emphasized the importance of not feeding wildlife as this is the root of much of human-wildlife conflict. Finally, she ended her speech with a message of hope: “Nature is resilient, and we can still save our biodiversity and stop climate change in its tracks, as long as we act now!” This is such an encouraging message and it gave everyone a positive vibe as we start the conference.
Jane Goodall giving the opening plenary @Sandra Galistan
The first group of presentations in the conference touched on macaques in both Hong Kong and Singapore. Ms Alexandra Wong and Ms Amy Kwan gave the run down on human-macaque conflicts in Hong Kong and its management, particularly through contraception of local macaques. Our very own Sabrina Jabbar talked about how Singapore manages its own macaques, including our Monkey Guards Programme. It was fascinating to look at the parallels between the stratagems taken in both cities, despite the different contexts.
JGIS’s Sabrina Jabbar talking about the macaques, including the Monkey Guards Programme @Sia Sin Wei
The second group of presentations took us further afield as Mr Bui Van Tuan and Dr Niu Kefeng introduced the primate diversity and talked about their projects in Vietnam and China respectively. It takes a combination of research, science communication and engaging stakeholders for them to achieve their goals and ensure that the monkeys (douc langurs (Pygathrix sp.) and François' langur (Trachypithecus francoisi)) they study have a future.
The third group of presentations was about the illegal wildlife trade from a perspective from a researcher and a director of an NGO. Mr Zaki Zainol talked about his research on the online primate pet trade in Malaysia while Ms Kanitha Krishnasamy spoke about the efforts of TRAFFIC. Boots-on-the ground enforcement and investigation are important strategies for fighting the illegal wildlife trade. At the same time, educating, and engaging the public and other parties concerned are indispensable for sustainability of our wildlife resources.
Finally, Dr Erik Meijaard gave the closing plenary on his research on orangutans. His talk taught us the need to revisit and even question established paradigms in conservation in the search for more effective solutions to wicked problems.
The various talks covered a wide range of issues on the relationship between humans and the wildlife we coexist with. It was a fruitful time for the audience as they engaged in the latest developments in conservation and connected with friends. In the words of one participant: “Despite the conference lasting the entire day, time seemed to have flown by as we were having fun!”
If you have missed out on all the fun, please follow us on social media for we hope to have ConservAction weeks in the future.