Firstly, my apologies for not writing anything last week. I was away from the KY campus involved in interviewing prospective sponsored students for next semester. My post this week discusses the thorny problem of living in close proximity to wildlife, feral and domestic, and how we deal with it at KYUEM.
Like most western expatriates, when my wife and I first came to Lembah Beringin, we thought the monkeys were a charming novelty. We soon became aware of the fact that they can also be a dangerous nuisance. I recall asking the previous Bursar why there were so many stray cats about. He pointed out that they were a good early warning system for snakes. In my four years here, I have only heard of three snakes on campus, each of them pythons, all of which were located and removed from the drains. I presume they were there in pursuit of frogs, of which we have a sizeable population, particularly after prolonged and heavy rain. The snake shown below was captured by our staff in the drain close to the cafeteria last year.
I also became aware of domestic cats owned by staff members. Some of these animals were fed outside the apartments, so that their food was effectively a monkey magnet. I asked staff, therefore, to feed their cats indoors and to limit the number of such felines to two per accommodation unit. Cats with collars are clearly owned by someone; cats without may well be strays or feral animals. Together with the monkeys, they pose a threat to the well-being of everyone and their numbers must, consequently, be controlled.
Periodically, it becomes necessary to ask the Wildlife Department to come in and assist us. We have had monkeys learn how to open trash bins and scatter the contents to the four winds. Recently, I heard a commotion in the wet kitchen in our bungalow to find a young monkey on the wire mesh door, manipulating an unlocked padlock. His intention, I imagine, was to get inside and feast on the dry vegetables which were clearly in view. I duly scared him away and the lock has remained securely fastened ever since. I was reminded of the story of a colleague who some years ago visited Gibraltar and on returning to his hotel room, found it had been ransacked. When he called the police, he was astounded to discover that because he had left his balcony doors open, rock apes had seized the opportunity to invade his room and do untold damage.
Like most people, I am a lover of wildlife and have been a devotee of the likes of Sir David Attenborough for many years. However, we have a responsibility to everyone on this campus in terms of their health and safety. No one minds if we get the wildlife people to remove a snake. They should equally have no problem when we do the same with monkeys and stray cats - all of which, I am assured are relocated unharmed.
Our latest "monkey deterrent" has been to install large toy tigers at various locations at KY. They have proved surprisingly effective, but need to be moved from time to time or their obvious stillness persuades the monkeys that they pose no threat. We are also considering employing mannequins, such as those used in clothes stores. The sight of an adult male - I'm sorry if that sounds sexist, but I am assured the monkeys fear men more than women - may well be an added deterrent to their many and various depredations.
It should also be pointed out that staff and student accommodation should be secured at all times. Open windows can be very enticing to certain animals. On a personal note, we have had three unwelcome visits from (very large) monitor lizards over the years into our bungalow. This was purely due to the fact that the same screen door in the wet kitchen did not reach fully to the ground and there was a significant gap below it. The addition of a metal flange reaching to floor level has barred any further intruders.
Living in the jungle, we breathe clean air, can study in peace and are close to nature. Sometimes, however, living too close to it may cause problems. Sensible precautions will minimise nearly all the obvious risks we run.