Murky future for turtle museum as area redevelops

Murky future for turtle museum as area redevelops
Museum owner Connie Tan, with an African spurred tortoise, considered Neo Tiew Crescent as an alternative site but said it is not easily accessible for visitors.

SINGAPORE - Singapore's only turtle and tortoise museum may soon have to close its doors for good, if its owner cannot find another location when its lease expires at the end of this year.

Now at the Chinese Garden in Jurong, the Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum is home to more than 500 turtles, tortoises and terrapins from 49 species, many of them endangered.

But the animals, including rare species like the pig-nosed turtle and the African spurred tortoise, could become homeless when Chinese Garden and its surroundings are redeveloped into a larger Jurong Lake Gardens.

Plans for the area's makeover were first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally last August.

Jurong Lake Gardens will combine the existing Chinese and Japanese Gardens and Jurong Lake Park. A new Science Centre, to be completed around 2020, will also be included.

These plans are part of a larger transformation of the Jurong Lake District over the longer term, Mr Lee had said then.

Museum owner Connie Tan, 45, told The Straits Times that she had heard about redevelopment plans in 2013, but they became more concrete only last year.

She had considered Neo Tiew Crescent in Kranji, but said it is too inaccessible for visitors.

"I understand that development is necessary, but I need help to do something for this place," said Ms Tan. She started the museum at Chinese Garden with her father Danny Tan in 2001.

Ms Kartini Omar, director of parks at the National Parks Board, said it will be calling for public feedback on the new Gardens.

"Suitable suggestions that are aligned to the design principles of the new Gardens will be incorporated into the brief for the masterplan design competition to be called later in the year," she said.

"It is therefore premature to commit to the continued presence of the museum, which houses mainly non-native species of turtles and tortoises, at its current location."

Some of the reptiles have been the Tans' pets from 1978, before Singapore joined an international convention in 1986 to ban the import and export of endangered species. Others found home at the museum after being abandoned by collectors.

None were captured from the wild, said Ms Tan, who is also director of an events logistics firm.

A notice at the museum informs visitors that it is a sanctuary for turtles and tortoises. It said: "If released back to nature, they will not be able to survive as they have been cared for as pets since young."

This article was first published on January 23, 2015.
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