NParks investigating incident of man feeding bananas to wild hornbills at Loyang Way Food Village

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The National Parks Board (NParks) is investigating an incident where a man was seen feeding wild hornbills at Loyang Way Food Village.

The incident, which was posted on Nature Society Singapore's Facebook page on Sunday (Nov 29), caught the attention of my netizens, many of which felt that feeding of wild animals should not be encouraged.

In the video, two hornbills can be seen perched on two different tables and eating leftover food.

One of the hornbills then joins his friend to feed at the same table as onlookers curiously watch them.

Shortly after, a man appears with a banana in hand and starts peeling it for the hornbills to feast on.

One of the hornbills can be seen picking up a banana piece with his beak and passing it to his friend, who munches down on the fruit snack.

In the caption accompanying the video, Facebook user Joseph Choo shared that "some people cannot resist feeding wild animals".

"These hornbills will become bolder and this is bad," he added.

In response to a Stomp query, Mr How Choon Beng, Director of Wildlife Management at NParks, said: " NParks takes a serious view of the feeding of wild animals. One of the main reasons why wildlife approach humans is due to feeding."

Mr How added that feeding, intentional or otherwise, alters the natural behaviour of wildlife, and habituates them to human presence and reliance on humans for an easy source of food.

Wildlife may have an increased propensity to approach humans when they associate humans as food providers.

This may lead to them venturing into urban areas in search of human sources of food, wandering onto roads posing a potential danger to motorists and to themselves and displaying aggressive behaviour towards people they may come across.

"The population and distribution of wildlife is regulated through the resources available in the natural environment. Feeding causes an artificial increase in food which may result in an unnatural and unsustainable increase in populations," said Mr How.

"This action contributes to increased human-wildlife conflict and also upsets the ecological balance. Furthermore, many animals fulfil ecological roles such as pollinators and seed dispersers, and these processes are disrupted when they rely on humans for food instead.

"Additionally, feeding wildlife with processed foods can also cause health problems to the animals, as the food is not suitable for them. Wildlife may also lose their natural foraging skills and struggle to survive in their natural environment when there is no readily available food source.

"NParks is aware of the incident where a pair of hornbills were filmed eating leftovers at Loyang Way Food Village as well as a man feeding bananas to the hornbills. We are currently investigating the matter."

Under the Wildlife Act, first-time offenders caught feeding wildlife could be fined up to $5,000, and repeat offenders could be fined up to $10,000.

Mr Kalai Vanan, deputy chief executive officer of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), also said:"This video is a sad reminder on how irresponsible actions of people can alter an animal’s behaviour. What will happen next is that the hornbills will start approaching anyone who is eating to take their food."

Mr Kalai added that people who may be afraid of the large birds may resist or panic, which will result in the hornbills becoming defensive as they will not understand why food is not given to them.

The public will then think that the birds are aggressive and that the species is overpopulated, and a survey might be done to ask if they should be removed or tolerated.

"This is what has been happening for wild boars, macaques, pigeons, mynas and others," said Mr Kalai.

"Acres has been strongly voicing out our concern about this matter and to co-exist with wildlife means to respect their boundaries and appreciate them from a distance.

"We hope that everyone of us can come together to understand better why we should not feed wildlife directly or indirectly or perceive them as pests.

"We would like to urge the public to never feed wildlife and to report feeding of wildlife to NParks at 1800-471-7300."