Managing present day large-carnivores in ‘island habitats’: lessons in memoriam learned from human-tiger interactions in Singapore
Managing large carnivores in human-inhabited areas is challenging as their large range requirements often brings them into conflict with people. Learning from an extraordinary historical example of large carnivore resilience in a human-occupied landscape, we detail the case of human-tiger interactions on a small (576 km2) island, Singapore. Newspaper reports archived in the National Library of Singapore were used to construct a data set for interactions that occurred from 1831–1930. During this period, there were a reported 156 tiger sightings, 211 fatal tiger attacks on people and 114 tiger captures, which were mainly in response to these attacks. The number of interactions peaked between 1846 and 1865 with 6.8 people on average being killed annually. From 1910 onwards, there was a sharp decline in the number of tiger incidents, concluding with the last wild tiger being captured in 1930. Human-tiger interactions were widespread across Singapore, occurring in 24 of its 29 districts, but predominantly located in plantations and forests. This study also maps and describes the immense pressure placed on tigers in Singapore through the near complete conversion of their natural forest habitat to plantations and the frequent tiger killings. Our study offers insights to large carnivore management because under these prevailing conditions, tigers persisted in Singapore under intense persecution for almost 60 years. Most likely, the Singapore’s tigers were supplemented by occasional immigration from southern Malaysia.