Tigers in Singapore



Tigers in Singapore were sighted mostly in the forested areas of Bukit Timah,1 Choa Chu Kang2 and Pulau Ubin during the mid-18th to early 19thcentury.3 They became a menace when large areas of Singapore’s forests were cleared for roads and plantations. The intensive hunt for tigers, bolstered by the promise of financial rewards for their capture and killing, led to their diminished numbers.4

Early records

The first record of the existence of tigers was found in the first local newspaper, the Singapore Chronicle, dated 8 September 1831. There, it was reported that a male Chinese national was killed by a tiger, and that the same tiger probably also killed a local shortly after.5 The thick virgin jungles that covered Singapore which formed part of their hunting grounds, were home to pigs and deer which the tigers preyed on.6

Being good swimmers, tigers had been known to swim cross the Straits of Johore into Singapore.7 In 1835, G. D. Coleman and his convict workers were attacked when they were laying out a new road through a swamp in the jungle near town, but thankfully no one was killed.8 In May 1839, the Free Press reported that two Chinese had been carried off by tigers near Rangong Road (now Serangoon Road).9

When the cultivation of gambier and pepper took off in Singapore during the 1840s, plantations extended beyond town and encroached on jungle areas. By the late 1840s, the number of plantations peaked at 600.10 Chinese plantation coolies became easy targets for tigers. Reports of encounters with tigers increased in the 1830s and 1840s.11


Tiger attacks grew so intense that it was said that by the middle of the 19th century, tigers claimed a life a day. This is doubtful though not improbable. In 1859, one village near Bukit Timah was abandoned due to overwhelming tiger attacks.12 During the 1860s, more than 350 lives were lost because of tigers.13 The actual figure could be more as many tiger attacks went unreported.14

Containing the tiger menace
The government gave a reward of $20 for every tiger killed, but the growing number of casualties led to the reward being increased to $50, then $100.15 Tiger hunting became a rewarding sport offering money and adventure. Pits of 4 to 4.5 m (14 or 15 feet deep) were dug and traps set. Tigers caught were hauled out alive and put into strong rattan baskets that they could not bite through.16

Major J.F.A McNair arranged for Indian convicts who were good “shikarries” to patrol the Bukit Timah and Choa Chu Kang districts. With so many tigers killed, their numbers dwindled until there were none left on the island.17 Occasional tiger attacks were still reported towards the end of the 19th century: A man was killed by a tiger at Thomson Road in 1890, and two tigers were shot at Bukit Timah in 1896.18

The last wild tiger, roaming in Choa Chu Kang area, was killed in the 1930s.19 It was also reported that the very last tiger to be shot in Singapore had wandered away from its travelling circus, and was shot under the billiard room at the Raffles Hotel in 1902 by the principal of Raffles Institution.20



References
1. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1993). Bukit Timah Planning Area: Planning report 1993. Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 8. (Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 SIN)
2. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1996). Choa Chu Kang Planning Area: Planning report 1996. Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 8. (Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 SIN)
3. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 2). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 369. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS]); Josey, A. (1971, November 1). How many tigers roamed early Singapore is still a matter of doubt. New Nation, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Tyres, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyres' Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 210. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
5. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 2). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 369. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
6. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 219. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 2). Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 367, 369. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
7. Singapore Chronicles: A special commemorative history of Singapore. (1995). Hong Kong: Illustrated Magazine, p. 142. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
8. Liu, G. (1999). Singapore: A pictorial history 1819–2000. National Heritage Board and Editions Didier Millet, p. 79. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 LIU-[HIS])
9. Singapore Chronicles: A special commemorative history of Singapore. (1995). Hong Kong: Illustrated Magazine, p. 142. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
10. Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A history of Singapore, 1819–1988. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 44. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
11. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 220. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); LePoer, B. L. (Ed.). (1989). Singapore a country study. Washington D.C: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, p. 21. (Call no.: RSING 959.57.57 SIN-[HIS]); Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A history of Singapore, 1819–1988. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 44. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
12. Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A history of Singapore, 1819–1988. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 44. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
13. When tigers ruled Singapore. (1974, Mar 21). New Nation, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 220. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
15. Singapore Chronicles: A special commemorative history of Singapore. (1995). Hong Kong: Illustrated Magazine, pp. 142–143. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
16. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 220–221. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); LePoer, B. L. (Ed.). (1989). Singapore a country study. Washington D.C: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, p. 21. (Call no.: RSING 959.57.57 SIN-[HIS])
[17. Tyres, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyres' Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 210. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
18. Liu, G. (1999). Singapore: A pictorial history 1819–2000. National Heritage Board and Editions Didier Millet, p. 79. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 LIU-[HIS])
19. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1996). Choa Chu Kang Planning Area: Planning report 1996. Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority, p. 8. (Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 SIN)
20. Brown, E.A. (2007). Indiscreet memories: 1901 Singapore through the eyes of a colonial Englishman. Singapore: Monsoon Books, pp.104–105. (Call no.: RSING 959.5703 BRO-[HIS]); Raffles romance. (1992, December 5). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2007 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Tigers--Singapore
Nature>>Animals
Wildlife
Science and technology>>Zoology>>Endangered animals