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'Aggressive' wild macaque caught on video playing with ATM at Beauty World, group of monkeys affecting nearby shops

90 reported cases received by NParks, population management measures such as trapping operations are underway

Screen grabs of wild monkey caught playing with ATM machine at Beauty World Centre posted on Facebook (Photos: Abby Hew/Singapore Incidents Facebook)
Screen grabs of wild monkey caught playing with ATM machine at Beauty World Centre posted on Facebook (Photos: Abby Hew/Singapore Incidents Facebook)

SINGAPORE — It's not even the Year of the Monkey, but that didn't stop this macaque from trying its luck to get its hands on some money. The male macaque was caught on camera tinkering with a POSB automated teller machine (ATM) at Beauty World Centre last month.

In a video posted on Singapore Incidents Facebook page on 9 January by user Abby Hew, the monkey was seen attempting to press the buttons on the ATM. Hew said in her post that the incident happened the day before.

“We are aware of the lone male macaque, and are actively trying to trap it. If the macaque is successfully trapped, it will be relocated away from urban areas," said NParks' acting group director of wildlife management, How Choon Beng, told The Straits Times in an article published on Wednesday (7 February)

The local daily reported that POSB is aware of the incident and did not disclose the time or date it occured. The bank also said that its ATMs undergo daily cleaning and sanitisation.

Following the incident, POSB arranged for an additional cleaning session for the affected ATM.

According to The Straits Times, NParks’ had received 90 cases of feedback about long-tailed macaques in the vicinity of Beauty World MRT, where the species can be found in the nearby Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

The feedback received consisted of both complaints and sightings of the animals. They include multiple sightings of the same animal, and does not indicate an increase or decrease in incidents of conflict with wildlife, said NParks.

Group of four to five monkeys disrupting nearby businesses

Shopkeepers in the area also said they were very used to the presence of monkeys. They told The Straits Times that a group of four to five monkeys were sighted several times a week last year.

The owner of a family-owned confectionery shop in Chun Tin Road, Bernard Ng, said that a group of monkeys had stolen food from his shop. The monkeys had snatched sealed packets of food from its shopfront and climbed up to the second storey, where they unwrapped and ate the food, before throwing the food wrappers down.

The monkeys had also snuck through an open window on the second storey to steal food, and even knocked over an incense container set outside the window. Since then, the shop had stopped opening its windows.

According to Ng, NParks officers have been stationed in the the area to bait the monkeys into a cage. Despite efforts, there has been no success.

A sales assistant at the Pet Lovers Centre outlet in Chun Tin Road revealed to the news outlet that the monkeys would attempt to push open the glass doors in a bid to enter the store.

Additionally, the animals would occasionally obstruct the entrance, impeding customers from entering. Staff would often have to hold the doors shut to prevent the monkeys from entering.

However, eateries along the nearby Cheong Chin Nam Road, said they have not encountered issues, reported The Straits Times. A staff member from Al-Azhar Restaurant, Mohd Ishak, said that the eatery and its customers had not encountered direct disturbances. However, he said the monkeys can often be seen rummaging for food in dustbins along the pavement near the main road.

Of the troop of monkeys, only one “very naughty” and "very aggressive" male macaque remains a regular visitor of concern. A spokesperson from education centre, Apple Pie Language, told The Straits Times, that while the situation has improved, he remains concerned about the lone monkey that "may attack anyone".

Photo and video evidence sent by the man showed the monkey allegedly playing with and biting art supplies. In a video, the monkey can be seen lunging towards the person filming the video.

Do not feed the monkeys, NParks advises public

To manage the monkey population and alleviate related issues, NParks told The Straits Times that it is taking the following measures:

  • monkey guarding – conditioning macaques away from residential areas and towards forested areas;

  • removing food sources such as fruit trees which may serve as attractants;

  • carrying out trapping operations;

  • and engaging residents and stall owners on steps they can take to minimise macaque intrusion.

The measures also include studying the monkeys’ population ecology, modifying their habitat, and relocating intrusive individuals away from residential areas. The agency is also working with stakeholders to carry out sterilisation.

The authority also cautioned the public against feeding monkeys. Anyone caught doing so can be fined up to $5,000 for the first time, and up to $10,000 for second or subsequent offences.

“If macaques approach you in the open, remain calm and quiet and do not make any sudden movements or maintain eye contact with them. Instead, look away and back off slowly. Keep away from the area until they have left,” said How.

He also suggested that members of the public keep plastic bags out of the sight of macaques when they spot them, as they associate plastic bags with the presence of food and will try to snatch them.

Last August, a monkey was caught on video stealing and eating bread from a bakery in Kovan. A video of five monkeys descending a Jalan Besar HDB flat also went viral.

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