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  The Straits Times 7 Apr 06
No site yet for wild animal shelter
by Radha Basu

AN ANIMAL welfare group given the licence to build a shelter for wild animals is still waiting to be allocated a strip of land to start work.

It has already been a 1 1/2-year wait for the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), and the situation is getting urgent.

This is because the Singapore Zoo is already packed to the gills with these animals, which had been confiscated from dealers and homes.

Acres president Louis Ng said: 'We understand that land is scarce in Singapore, but we still don't know why this is taking so long.' Already, most of the 4,500 such animals seized from dealers and homes in the last five years - such as star tortoises, iguanas, slow lorises and sugar gliders - have ended up in the zoo, which is running out of space.

Add to this the likelihood that more such endangered wild animals will be handed in, as a result of a month-old law which increases tenfold the penalties for owning such animals.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), the main government agency dealing with animal welfare issues, has, with Acres' help, rescued about 150 endangered animals from homes and pet shops in the past 1 1/2 years alone.

Many of these animals were 'traumatised' during the raids and need a safe place to recover in peace, said Mr Ng. Without a dedicated shelter, most of these animals have landed up in the zoo, but this cannot continue indefinitely. The zoo confirmed this.

Most of the animals rounded up in AVA's raids are housed in its small-animal quarantine enclosure, which is already full, said an assistant director of the Singapore Zoo, Mr Biswajit Guha.

Since the enclosure is actually for quarantining animals that have been brought in or about to be sent overseas, these exotic animals are fighting for the same limited space, he explained.

Because the enclosure is supposed to be a holding area, these animals either join the zoo's collection or, if there is no space, are repatriated to their countries of origin.

To Acre's Mr Ng, an animal shelter is the answer. He said: 'We want people to visit it to learn about the illegal wildlife trade, which is second in value only to the illegal drug trade.'

The task of identifying a plot of land for Acres' shelter falls on the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Singapore Land Authority and the AVA, which say they should be able to find one 'in the next few months'.

Lim Chu Kang and Pulau Ubin were identified earlier as possible sites. The former was apparently vetoed because it sat directly opposite an ornamental bird farm and the authorities wanted to avoid the risk of 'cross contamination' should a disease break out.

It is not clear why Pulau Ubin was ruled out.

A few other places are now being used as temporary homes for the confiscated animals. The head of the AVA's wildlife regulatory branch, Ms Lye Fong Keng, listed these as the turtle museum at the Chinese Garden, the Singapore Science Centre and Sentosa's Underwater World.

'Confiscated and surrendered animals are our responsibility and we will find a home for them,' she said.

Seeking the green light for animal sanctuaries:
YES Plans for halfway house on Pulau Ubin for confiscated wildlife get in-principle OK
By Chang Ai-Lien Science Correspondent
NO Expats' proposal to turn Pulau Tekukor into Monkey Island rejected and Monkeys that turn too aggressive culled
By Jane Ng
The Straits Times, 24 Jun 05
Related articles on Singapore: wildlife trade
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