Editor’s note: Robin Hicks is a volunteer with the wildlife rescue group ACRES.
Malayan Colugos, also known as flying lemurs, are Singapore’s most majestic forest gliders, swooping from tree to tree like furry magic carpets — until they run out of forest and crash into the city, often at the cost of their lives.
A colugo died after it was found suspended Sunday from concertina razor wire opposite the Swiss Embassy in Bukit Timah. It is the third of the web-limbed mammals to get ensnared on the fence on Bukit Tinggi Road in the past few years.
Colugos are highly specialized tree-dwellers with a skin membrane, or patagium, running the full length of their bodies to help them glide through the forest. But they struggle to navigate the urban environment.
The flying lemur had most likely glided from a nearby tree onto the fence that is adjacent to the Central Catchment and Bukit Timah nature reserves, which are home to the elusive nocturnal creatures.
The helpless animal was spotted at 1:50pm on Sunday by 44-year-old fitness instructor Hana Cha, who lives nearby and was on her way back from work.
The colugo was impaled on the circular razor wire atop the fence, a few feet from a tree.
“I was passing by and an old lady was taking pictures of something. I got curious and saw the colugo hanging there. First I thought it was a big bat resting, but the lady told me he’d got caught up and needed help,” Cha said.
“As I approached I could see that he was trying to free himself, but his ‘wings’ were stuck on the wire,” she added.
A local family that passed by told Cha that it was the second time they had seen a colugo caught on this fence.
“It was shocking to hear that it wasn’t the first time,” she told Coconuts.
Cha phoned animal welfare group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, or ACRES, and after a 30-minute rescue operation involving a ladder and towels placed over the razor wire, the colugo was freed from the fence.
The animal suffered multiple lacerations, including a deep cut to its jaw, severed limbs, and damage to the skin which enables it to glide. It was barely alive and slumped limply in the arms of a rescue officer.
ACRES took the colugo to Mandai Wildlife Reserve but it was pronounced dead on arrival by the veterinary team at about 2:45pm.
How to stop colugos from crash-landing
It was the latest death on the high-security fence surrounding a water pumping station and power facility.
A colugo was previously rescued from the same fence by ACRES in January 2021 and two other times in 2020 and 2014. None survived.
Since 2014, five colugos were rescued nearby along Bukit Tinggi Road. They had missed the fence but were stranded on the ground as there were no trees around.
The concertina wire fence surrounds a small patch of land bordered by Swiss Club Link, Bukit Tinggi Road and Jalan Kampong Chantek. It was previously owned by Swiss Club, which informed Coconuts that it recently sold the land.
“We all love the colugos, which frequently visit our Club, and are deeply saddened to see them being harmed,” Swiss Club general manager Aaron Lim told Coconuts. “While we are no longer the owner of the land, we have contacted the new involved parties with the ambition to get the wire removed as soon as possible.”
Lim said Swiss Club will work with ACRES to review the structures on its premises and remove or alter any that are potentially hazardous to wildlife.
“The barbed wire is designed to entangle a possible intruder,” said ACRES’ Kalai Vanan. “However, the wire also poses a hazard to wildlife such as snakes, birds, and other mammals.”
Possible solutions include changing the concertina wire to barbed wire, which inflicts less damage to wildlife, Kalai said.
Another could be to plant a tall tree within the premises that could act as a “stepping stone” for colugos passing through the area, or erect a shield over the wire to prevent an animal from landing.
ACRES has rescued animals including a Barn Owl and Changeable hawk-eagle from concertina wire around the island in recent years.
An Indochinese rat snake suffered severe injuries on razor wire in 2014 and died.
Other stories you should check out:
Entitled Singapore driver who almost ran over guard charged
Shoot your celluloid heart out at Singapore analog photo exhibition
SCDF investigating ‘bonehead’ emergency responder who allegedly hung up on caller