Tuesday 9 February 2010

Whatever happened to the monkeys in the Botanic Gardens?

This photo shows my mum, dad and me feeding the monkeys in the Botanic Gardens in Singapore in about 1965. I was scared stiff of them! I've probably written about this before but when I went back to Singapore in 1990, I wondered what had happened to all the monkeys that we loved feeding back then. In 1990, there wasn't a single one left. This morning, I received a lovely book from a good friend, James Seah in Singapore, called, 'Chronicle of Singapore 1959 - 2009'. James has his own excellent Singapore Blog which many of you will know called Blog to Express. The book is wonderful to read and it's very interesting to read not just the news stories of when we were there but also to read what has happened since. I think, within it's pages, lies the answer to the disappearance of all those wonderful monkeys. An entry for 1971 reads: MONKEY SHOOTINGS DRAW CELEBRITY PROTEST 23rd January,1971 Hollywood actress Barbara Werle and three friends staged a picket-line protest outside the Botanic Gardens against the culling of wild monkeys in the park. Police broke up the protest after half an hour. Werle and her friends carried placards which read: 'Please don't shoot the monkeys - feed them!'and 'Save the Apes - take one to dinner. Stop the killing'. She said she was moved to protest after reading a report about the two-day cull in The New Nation, an afternoon paper. In response, the Primary Production Department said the monkeys were a 'vicious and wily' nuisance that threatened public welfare and had to be destroyed. It added that the Botanic Gardens would offer a prize to anyone who could suggest a more practical and humane way to get rid of the pests. So, there you have it. It looks like all those monkeys that we enjoyed feeding nuts and bananas to, all that time ago, were eventually shot. I find this quite sad but I suppose it's what I'd thought had probably happened to them. There seems to have been no place for monkeys in the new, very clean, Singapore. I was reading about someone who had lived in Singapore in the 1960s and had returned in the late 1980s and found much of it unrecognisable. He said that he didn't want to return again because he felt that it would have changed too much since his last visit and he would rather remember it how it was. Perhaps many people feel like that. Singapore today is certainly a very different city to the one that I remember in the 1960s. The book is an excellent read and it solves many other mysteries about disappeared parts of Singapore that I've often wondered about. I shall be including a lot more from its fascinating pages later on in this blog, so keep reading. Thanks again, James, for an excellent book, it's very much appreciated.

1 comment:

  1. The slogan 'Save the Apes - take one to dinner....is kinda dangerous for the Apes as far as Chinese is concerned :) Monkey brains happened to be a delicacy in some parts of China. The great Imperial Manchu-Han Banquet features the monkey brain as one of the main courses.