Seen a Sunda pangolin before? A new guide, listing all of NTU’S creatures, tells you exactly what to do when you see one.
Text by Lok Bing Hong
Photo by Eugene Goh
What would you do if you ran into a python at school?
Whip out your phone, but not to post a picture on Instagram. Instead, contact the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) or NParks to evacuate it to a safe place.
The answers to such scenarios with wildlife on campus can be found in a new manual released by a group of students that lists creatures that have made a home in NTU – and provides instructions on what to do if students encounter them.
The 55-page NTU Wildlife Etiquette Guidebook launched by NTU Earthlink on March 20 is the student-run group’s latest effort to teach students how to coexist with creatures found on campus. The manual features 27 creatures, like long-tailed macaques, wild boars and otters.
The guide also has a section for what Hall residents should do to avoid animal encounters, like macaques entering their rooms.
The rule of thumb: contact the Acres Wildlife Rescue hotline (9783 7782) if help is needed, and do not engage the animals.
Earthlink’s director of human-wildlife coexistence Karina Lim, 22, said the illustrated guidebook can help students understand wildlife within the university better, which is important as more urban areas are built up, increasing the chances of encountering animals.
“As NTU is located next to the Western Catchment Reserve, it is pertinent for us to know proper wildlife etiquette so that we can coexist harmoniously,” Karina, the sociology student, said.
QR codes to the virtual handbook will be made available at bus stops, Hall notice boards, canteens and food courts around campus.
Soapbox highlights several creatures from the handbook.
Sunda Pangolins (Manis javanica)
This scaly anteater is a species of pangolin commonly found in forested areas of Southeast Asia, but has been seen lost in NTU dormitories.
Its penchant for wandering into urban areas is often to its own peril, as the backpack-sized creature is a target of poachers after its precious scales.
These armour-like scales can fetch up to $600 per kilogram and hunting has caused the pangolins to become critically endangered.
According to NParks, the nocturnal Sunda Pangolin typically resides in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.
Pangolins do not bite as they do not have teeth. It has a sticky tongue, which is used to lap up ants and termites and can extend to 70 cm — almost half of its body length.
In 2016, a young pangolin was found in Hall 7 after entering through a crack in the door. Another was said to have been struck by a bus near the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information in 2022.
Students who encounter a pangolin are urged to leave it alone and call Acres if it is injured.
Smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata)
Named after its sleek coat of fur, the smooth-coated otter is one of the two otter species found here. The roughly 150 of such otters in the city are usually found in mangroves, mudflats and coastal areas.
The Straits Times reported in February that there are 10 families of smooth-coated otters here, with the Bishan, Marina and Zouk romps being more prominent. As they are social creatures, otters usually roam in pairs or small families.
The four-legged critter is well-adapted to the urban environment, navigating via canal systems and tunnels to find food and shelter.
The otters are also commonly spotted around campus, including areas near the Crescent and Pioneer Halls, Hall 4 and 6, and the Nanyang Lake at the Yunnan Garden.
When encountering otters, students are advised to observe from a distance and not feed them. If provoked, otters may react in self-defence.
Long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis)
The cheeky brown-furred primate is infamous for snatching delivery parcels, intruding residential halls and foraging through rubbish bins in search of food.
Since 2021, the university has installed more than 1,200 monkey-proof bins around the campus and held workshops to teach students and staff how to guide the animals away from populated areas.
Despite these efforts, the macaque’s foraging for food on campus continues to be problematic. Some of the macaques have been relocated away from NTU to nature conservation areas.
Reticulated python (Malayopython Reticulatus)
A Hall resident had the shock of his life when he entered a restroom in his Hall to the sight of a 2-metre python slithering around.
Sightings of the reptile do not come as a surprise, as it is one of the more commonly-seen snakes in NTU, where they roam in search of rodents and food.
The non-venomous snake can grow to almost 10 metres, and its scales are decorated with dark, white and yellow diamond-shaped patterns.
In 2015, The Straits Times reported that a reticulated python was seen wrestling with a king cobra.
When encountering snakes on campus, students are advised to contact Acres or NParks to evacuate them to a safe place. Students should also contact campus security to help ensure others do not go near the snake.
Collared kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris)
This pouch-sized bird can be distinguished by its aquamarine or turquoise upper body and white breast. It feeds on fish, lizards, insects and small amphibians.
It was spotted on campus on several occasions, including twice in February near Hall 12 and the campus medical centre Fullerton Health.
Buffy fish owl (Ketupa ketupu)
Found all over the region, this backpack-sized owl can be distinguished by its striking white eyebrows, yellow eyes and distinct ear tufts that give its distinctive silhouette.
The nocturnal bird is usually seen near water bodies where it fishes, and students have spotted it perched on tree branches near the School of Art, Design and Media and the pond beside Hall 6.