Highway construction driving wildlife out of their homes

Nowhere to go: APM personnel attempting to capture a civet after receiving reports from a resident in a housing area in Penang.

GEORGE TOWN: Wild animals are on the loose. Deforestation and the hot weather are driving them out of their natural habitat to look for food.

Some of these animals have been reported to wander around the streets and neighbourhoods near Ayer Itam and Island Park where there is an ongoing highway project.

Seri Delima assemblyman Connie Tan said her team and Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) visited a few areas to investigate complaints by residents of the presence of wild monkeys roaming their neighbourhood.

“Perhilitan has placed a cage to trap the monkeys at Krystal Heights Apartment and another one in Jalan Tembaga.

“I would like to remind all residents not to feed the wild monkeys with food scraps as this will encourage them to gather near your houses,” she said.

Costing RM851mil, the 6km bypass that links Ayer Itam to the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway is part of the Penang Transport Master Plan and is expected to be completed in 2025.

The bypass is expected to reduce travel time and bring long-term benefits to Penang residents, especially the 300,000 living in Ayer Itam, Bandar Baru Ayer Itam and the adjoining Paya Terubong.

Civil Defence Force (APM) assistant director (operation sector) Mejar (PA) Kamal Jakarinah said the hot weather was also one of the reasons the wild animals emerge from their comfort zone to look for food to survive.

“Animals like snakes and other reptilians were often found in dirty and damp places where they can easily catch rats and other animal carcasses,” he said.

Kamal said the team solved 6,187 cases or 46% of the total 13,373 reported cases they received for the whole of 2023.

“From that number, we caught 3,398 poisonous reptiles,” he said.

Other animals caught by the Civil Defence Force (APM) included pythons, monocled cobras and the highly venomous King cobra.

Among the five districts in Penang, Kamal said north Seberang Prai recorded the most snakes caught with 1,781 including 224 snakes in June alone.

In southwest Penang, the APM, he added caught a total of 924 snakes with November being the busiest month for them with 108 snakes captured.

“Some of the animals caught are monitor lizards, monkeys, slow loris, macaques, civets, wild boars and even owls,” he said.

Kamal said in 2023 alone, some 1,800 beehives and hornet nests were destroyed during their operations.

“The public should not try to be a hero by attempting to catch the wild animals as they may be dangerous and poisonous.

“And don’t kill the animals as they might be endangered species and protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act,” he said, adding that all the wild animals caught would be handed over to Perhilitan.

Kamal, meanwhile, is also encouraging the public to participate in public awareness programmes organised by the department from time to time so that their awareness on wildlife will increase.

In Kedah, Baling APM district officer Leftenan (PA) Mohd Faizol Aziz said they managed to capture about 700 snakes in 2023 which had strayed into the residential areas.

“This year, we caught 77 snakes in January alone,” he said.

Penang, Kedah and Perlis are expected to face a dry season in the next three months with less rainfall, averaging between 50mm and 450mm.

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