New sanctuary for rescued wildlife open in Lim Chu Kang

SINGAPORE - The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) unveiled on Thursday morning a new sanctuary area built by more than 100 volunteers at its Wildlife Rescue Centre in Jalan Lekar.

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SINGAPORE - This nine kilogram giant turtle is happily taking a stroll now, but he wasn't doing so well when he was run over by a truck two years ago.

Meet Boltz, an Asian horn turtle, rescued by animal welfare group Acres (Animal Concerns Research and Education Society) in 2011, when a truck split his shell into two.

Boltz had to undergo one year of critical care and vets managed to put his shell together and seal his crack with Apoxy.

Laying over here is Kanmani, a green iguana who was abandoned by her owner. She was spotted rummaging through a rubbish dump and rescued by Acres last year.

These are just two of the 46 wild animals released into the brand new sanctuary area in Choa Chu Kang, officially opened by the wildlife rescue centre by Acres on Thursday.

The 46 animals comprise of turtles, tortoises and one iguana.

Minister of State for National Development Mr Desmond Lee, the guest of honour for the opening, personally released Big Mama, a star tortoise, as well as Boltz.

"So the animals that we have released today are all from the illegal wildlife trade. So when we say about the illegal wildlife trade is animals who have been abducted from the wild and transported vast distances so that they can be someone's exotic pet. And many a times, the animals are abandoned cruelly, where they are left to fend for themselves," said Mr Kalaivanan Balakrishnan.

"It's not just being passionate about a cause, and championing for a cause.. verbally, or online... but actually getting the hands dirty. If you look at the sanctuary, it is built by Singaporeans from all walks of life who feel passionately about animal welfare. The government has assisted by providing the land and expediting the approval. We will support the initiative of getting the communities involved because that's where you built ownership. Animal welfare is growing in the consciousness of Singaporeans - they feel strongly about it and the government will support the latest and other animal welfare groups in building communities such as this, "said Minister Lee.

The enclosure which cost $3,000 was built by hundreds of volunteers over a six month period. However, the sanctuary's license only house reptiles and amphibians for long term care.

"When someone calls the Acres rescue hotline," said Mr Kalaivanan Balakrishnan, "we assess the situation - whether it is a call for a snake or an injured bird or any other wild animal. We go down and we take a look. If it is a native wild animal, we release it back to the wild here immediately. If it is an injured native animal, we rehab the animal and treat it before release. But if it turns out to be an exotic animal that has been abandoned, we will bring it back to the Acres wildlife rescue centre. We need to ID the species to ensure health checks, make sure it is all OK before it goes into the quarantine."

"How long does it have to be in the quarantine before they are released into the enclosures?" asked a RazorTV reporter.

"Ok, it will spend an initial three months in the quarantine, before we assess and slowly if the animals come out, we need to slowly bring them out... Keep in mind, as many of the tortoises have been indoors all their lives since they have been taken and they are not used to the direct sunlight or even the rain and so on. So we slowly bring them out, one hour, two hour, and slowly, and eventually they will come out," said Mr Kalaivanan Balakrishnan.

Acres aim is to eventually return the animals back into their native habitats. The new 300 square metres sanctuary is just one portion of the 0.5 hectare plot of land that house Acres office, education centre, volunteer house and rescue centre.

The shelter which was originally two hectares in size had 1.5 hectares rendered unusable by a contractor who contaminated the soil with toxic chemicals when he was hired six years ago.

Acres sued the contractor hired to level the site. In June, Acres was awarded $26.5 million in damages.

Chief executive Louis Ng told RazorTV that Acres has not received the payments yet. When the money comes in, the first objective would be to clean up the waste land.

This article was transcribed from a RazorTV video.