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  Today Online 12 Oct 06
Animal haven Acres rescue centre up by April, needs $1m
Sheralyn Tay

Straits Times 12 Oct 06
First wildlife rescue centre to open next year
$700,000 facility in Sungei Tengah will house up to 400 illegal pets
By Tania Tan

Channel NewsAsia 11 Oct 06
Wildlife rescue centre to be set up by April next year

By Asha Popatlal

SINGAPORE: It looks like there may be hope for animals caught in the cross-fire of illegal wildlife trade in Singapore, when the country's first wildlife rescue centre is set up by April next year.

In the past five years, more than 4,000 wild animals have been seized from dealers and private homes in Singapore. A random survey of 100 pet shops by local animal welfare charity, Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, or ACRES, last year found 20 of them selling prohibited wild animals illegally.

ACRES says the problem is two-fold.

One is ignorance. "A lot of Singaporeans buy these animals ignorantly, without knowing they're illegal to keep," said Louis Ng, Executive Director, ACRES.

The other problem is that because Singapore is so well-connected to the rest of the world, it is often used as a mid-point for the illegal smuggling of wildlife.

According to ACRES, part of the problem is the inhumane way in which these animals are smuggled. ACRES hopes setting up a wildlife rescue centre at a two-hectare site in Sungei Tengah will help.

For one thing, it can also be a place for animals to rest, before being repatriated to their native countries, failing which it can also be a permanent home for them. Currently, many are euthanised or sent to inappropriate places.

The centre, which will be able to accommodate up to 400 animals, will start guided tours and overnight stays for students and members of the public.

It has another important aim. "It will be an educational centre so that people can come and see that these are the animals that are commonly illegally traded. If they go into a pet shop, don't buy these animals and ... report the pet shops. So ultimately, this educational aspect will break the cycle and move us one step closer to ending this illegal wildlife trade in Singapore," said Mr Ng.

Students from Admiralty Secondary School are the first to partner ACRES in this project.

Legislation on the wild life trade in Singapore was tightened early this year, after intense lobbying efforts.

ACRES needs to raise just over a million dollars for building and running its centre for a year. So far, they have raised $30,000. More information on fund-raising can be found at www.acres.org.sg - CNA /dt

Today Online 12 Oct 06
Animal haven Acres rescue centre up by April, needs $1m
Sheralyn Tay

STAR tortoises rescued from suffocating suitcases and green iguanas freed from small cages could have a safe haven by April, when the Acres Wildlife Rescue Centre (AWRC) begins operations.

Located at Sungei Tengah Agrotech Park, Singapore's first wildlife rescue centre will be able to house about 400 wild species such as pig-nosed turtles, star tortoises, primates such as gibbons and macaques, and snakes--all of which are prohibited as pets here.

Efforts will be made to repatriate as many as possible--but for those creatures that can't be, the rainforest-like environs of the rescue centre will become their permanent home, said Acres.

About 4,000 wild animals have been confiscated from dealers and homes or given up by the public since 2001, and these have gone to the Singapore Zoo. But in April, the zoo said its quarantine facilities were full.

This made the need for the AWRC quite "urgent", said Acres president and executive director Louis Ng.

When contacted, the zoo clarified that it was still accepting animals referred by the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA). It also stressed--in an apparent response to an Acres press release--that "regardless of how many confiscated animals are received, the zoo does not euthanise animals that fall under Cites Appendix 1 unless for health reasons".

Apart from housing animals, the rescue centre aims to increase awareness of the illegal pet trade, as most people are not aware that some animals sold in pet shops are prohibited, said Mr Ng.

An Acres survey of 100 shops last year found one in five selling prohibited animals--species classified as facing extinction.

Day tours and other programmes for visitors that bring them up close with the centre's animals, will help them learn which species are illegal more easily "than, say, showing them pictures or giving a talk".

Education can also help put a stop to the unwitting cruelty of ignorant pet owners.

The pig-nosed turtle, for example, is often bought and released into the wild by Buddhists as part of their religious activities, said Mr Ng. "But many people don't realise that it is actually a fresh-water species, so if you release the pig nosed turtle into the sea, it's going to die a horrible death; it will shrivel up and die."

Yesterday, Acres signed a tenancy agreement with the Singapore Land Authority, which will give the not-for profit organisation a three-month rent-free period from November while construction is underway.

Acres needs some $1 million for the construction and initial operation of the 2-hectare facility. It will hold events next month to raise funds and awareness.

Already, Admiralty Secondary School has "adopted" the rescue centre, with its students to volunteer there as part of their Community Involvement Programme. Visit www.acres.org.sg for more information or to donate.

Straits Times 12 Oct 06
First wildlife rescue centre to open next year
$700,000 facility in Sungei Tengah will house up to 400 illegal pets
By Tania Tan

Animals saved from the illegal pet trade will get a second shot at survival when Singapore's first wildlife rescue centre opens in April next year.

The animal welfare group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) is setting up a 2ha sanctuary in the north-western part of Singapore. The $700,000 facility will house up to 400 illegal pets such as tortoises, macaques and snakes, seized by the authorities.

In the last one and a half years, about 150 endangered animals have been seized from homes and pet shops. Animals sent to the centre will either be kept there for the rest of their natural lives, or until they can be sent back to their native countries.

The rescue centre will run guided tours to educate the public on the wildlife species hawked on the black market and the pets they cannot keep, said Acres executive director Louis Ng.

According to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), anmials that may be kept as domestic pets are dogs, cats, hamsters, chinchillas, guinea pigs, rabbits, red-eared sliders (a type of terrapin) and many species of birds and fish.

But a global trade in other more exotic animals has mushroomed. Interpol, the international police organisation, has estimated that the illegal trade is worth US$5billion (S$8 billion).

Singapore is often the 'middleman' in the trade -- animals often pass through here en route to buyers in Indonesia or other parts of Asia, said Mr Ng. More than 6,000 such animals have been confiscated here since 2001.

Mr Ng noted that many of these creatures suffer a cruel fate, with dealers often transporting them in cramped crates. They are often found in poor condition or dead. For example, in June, only 70 out of the 2,500 endangered box turtles from Indonesia were found alive when the shipment was seized by the authorities here.

Even seized animals have faced uncertain futures. AVA said some are re-homed in foreign wildlife rescue centres, others are placed in the Singapore Zoo for a period of recovery before they are sent back to their native countries.

But this newspaper reported in April that the zoo was getting crowded with these animals, so some confiscated specmens were being put to sleep or sent to overcrowded facilities here.

Setting up the rescue centre on land leased from the Singpaore Land Authority (SLA) marks another milestone by animal activists here, who have been in the news for their efforts in nabbing cat killers or for setting up sanctuaries for abandoned animals.

Mr Clarent Ti, SLA's director of land and business management, said the centre was the result of Acres "taking action", instead of just "talking and complaining".

Previous bids to home wild animals have not panned out. For example, a group of expatriates proposed that the deserted island of Pulau Terkukor be turned into a monkey haven, but the idea fell through because lifestyle and entertainment projects were coming up there.

Open-concept enclosures

The Acres wildlife rescue centre will cover 2ha at the Sungei Tengah Agrotech Park.

The facility will have 70 open-concept animal enclosures, said Mr Louis Ng, the executive director of the non-profit Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres). As far as possible, animals will not be caged. "We want to take them out of their cages for the rest of their lifes", he said.

The centre will recruit volunteers to help with the daily running of the facility, which will give them hands-on experience working with animals. Already, this year's Secondary 1 students from Admiralty Secondary School have pledged to spend time helping out there.

The centre will cost more than $700,000 to build. It will cost about $300,000 to run it every year. Money will come from grants from organisations such as the Lee Foundation, and from the revenue collected from the guided tours run at the centre.

Acres is also hoping to raise $1million beginning with a fund raises on 3 Nov and 4 Nov at The Plaza Singapore Atrium (more details on the Acres website).

More on the ACRES website including the "Free to be wild" fundraiser, how to donate and more about the AWRC

Jospeh Lai is conducting an Orchid Walk to raise funds for ACRES more details

On a mission: about ACRES By Hilary Chiew The Star 3 Oct 06

ACRES needs support for Wildlife Rescue Centre Email from Louis Ng 22 Sep 06

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

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