The Tigers of Singapore
In this concrete jungle that Singapore is today, any story of wildlife encounters on this island, such as that of otters, snakes and monitor lizards mistaken for crocodiles, attract our attention. We seem to be amazed by the idea that Singapore in its present state can have any wildlife at all. It is hard to imagine a time when our little island was covered with jungles and teeming with wildlife, such as sambar deers, snakes, monkeys, and tigers. Yes, Singapore was once crawling with tigers.
An early record of tigers in Singapore can be found in an article dated Sep. 8, 1831 in the Singapore Chronicle newspaper. The article reported that tigers were becoming an increasing menance, and one had killed a Chinese plantation coolie in what is probably the present day Bukit Purmei area.
Chinese plantation coolies were particularly susceptible to tiger attacks, due to the nature of their jobs. As the number of gambier and pepper plantations grew in Singapore between the 1830s and 1840s, so did the number of coolies working in them. This, of course, led to higher incidences of tiger attacks.
Tiger attacks in Singapore grew, and became so common that by the mid-1800s, there was an average of one tiger attack a day. Bukit Timah was a particularly notorious location where tigers roamed and attacked humans, earning the nickname “Tiger Resort”. An entire village near Bukit Timah had to be abandoned in 1859 due to the numerous attacks.
To control the tiger population and reduce the number of tiger attacks in Singapore’s early days, the colonial government initially paid a handsome reward for every tiger killed. The hefty reward made tiger hunting a lucrative business in 19th century Singapore.
Eventually, towards the end of the 1800s, the tiger population declined due to tiger hunting, and the tiger attacks became less frequent. However, tigers continued to inhabit Singapore till the early 1900s.
Singapore’s last tiger was shot and killed by hunters in Choa Chu Kang on Oct. 26, 1930.
Cultural Myths & Legends
For millennia, the largest of the world’s cats has been an iconic symbol of power and courage, woven into culture, religion, folklore and ritual. Teeth, claws and other body parts became amulets. In legend, tigers brought food to men and women lost in the forest; tigers fought the forces of evil, protecting tribes, holy men, babies; tigers acted as a potent agent of fertility—and provided passage between the worlds of the living and the dead.
Nine tiger species once roamed from Siberia’s boreal forests southward to the steamy tropical jungles of Indonesia, and from present-day Turkey all the way to the East China Sea. The earliest fossil, a tiger-like skull unearthed in China, is two million years old.
Neolithic cave paintings are the earliest existing depictions, etched into rock walls across the Indian subcontinent 8,000 years ago and in China’s Helan Mountains; the oldest surviving tiger statue was sculpted in China some 1,000 years later.
Tribal cultures everywhere deified this cat, and it’s no wonder. That reverence has taken many forms. For the Chinese, the tiger represents the masculine and rules over all the world’s creatures, literally marked by royalty: The four stripes on its forehead form the character wáng, meaning king. The Tibetans believed that tigers held the key to immortality. The Koreans considered them messengers sent by a venerated mountain spirit that appears in paintings as an elderly, white-bearded man—accompanied by a tiger. The Naga tribes in Myanmar and India believed that man and tiger are brothers, one human, the other striped.
For many tribes, killing the beast was an unforgivable sin.
Adopting the Tiger
The tiger is the reigning predator across its range, huge, muscular, possessing fearsome teeth and claws and a roar that resounds for miles. This magnificent animal has incited a sense of both awe and admiration: its prowess, its ferocity, its beauty, and the harmony of the opposites. The tiger is full of life and embodies the spirit and drive to achieve and make progress. These are truly attributes we wish to see in our scout members.