You may have read about elephants swimming from Johore and possible tigers (or maybe just leopard cats) on Pulau Ubin. But Pulau Ubin has had seen more "exotic" residents yet!
Workers taking away a shot deer after a hunting trip at pulau ubin in 1930s, courtesy of PICAS
Sadly, there are no longer any deers on the island itself. However, in an article from Naturewatch's Pulau Ubin Special, it writes "One can imagine that the larger mammals like elephant, tiger, leopard and deer, mammals that were still found in Singapore in the last century, roamed Ubin freely then." The above picture is surely proof to fire those imaginations!
Malayan Tapir at the San Diego Zoo (Source)
In one of my first trips to Pulau Ubin in recent years, around 2003, along with another 2 photographers, we visited a Taoist Temple on Ubin and spoke with some of the people who worked and possibly lived there. While chatting about the quarry lake (Tian Ci) just behind the temple, a lady amongst the group told us that a long time ago, there were even Tapirs on the island and one of them even fell into the quarry and died. It was part of a couple. That was the first time I even heard of a tapir in Singapore. It had apparently swam over to Singapore from Johore.
This seems a common occurence as is written on a Museum Fest writeup "The northern coastline of Singapore is barely one kilometre away from the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. So close, in fact, that large animals can easily swim across the Johor Straits from Malaysia as they would any large river. And indeed they do, considering that animals do not recognise political boundaries drawn by humans! Wild pigs, elephants, tapir, and perhaps even a tiger have recently landed on the mangrove-fringed shores of Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong in the Johor Straits."
Later, in the talk by Dr Chua Ee Kiam, he also mentioned the tapirs. In fact, he even showed a black and white picture of a dead tapir at the bottom of the then functional quarry HDB Quarry (now Tian Ci) surrounded by the quarry workers. That was the first time I realise that the Tapir had fallen to death and not drowned as I initially thought. Sadly, I have not been able to find the picture yet.
Priscilla the Pig at Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin
Wild boars are a common species even on mainland Singapore. Of course the most famous wild boar in Pulau Ubin must have had been Priscilla who lived in Chek Jawa. She was brought up by a family at Chek Jawa, on the east coast of Pulau Ubin and thus explained her friendliness to humans. Sadly, Priscilla recently passed away. Of course there is also Pringles who was rescued by the NParks officer who was found swimming in the middle of the Johore Straits. Yet again, proof that animals constantly swim over the channel.
Pringles the Piglet
Of course, almost all of the wild boars on the island are dangerous and unlikely to be friendly to humans. Most of the time they would not be seen by visitors to the island but traces of them can be found in the form of half eaten durians and turned-up soil that indicated they have been digging around for food. Of course there is also another known pet wild boar near Mamam Beach, at the home of the headman Lim Chye Joo's son, Lim Chu Zi. However, this particular wild boar is kept within an enclosure at the compound.