Much like most of Singapore's native wildlife, animal welfare group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) is hard to spot but active, Acres founder and chief executive Louis Ng says.
My Paper speaks to the 38-year-old father of one about the country's native wildlife, the problem of animal smuggling and a possible coalition of animal groups here.
How has your move into politics (as MP for Nee Soon GRC) affected your time with Acres?
(My time) is split into four now. Politics, town council, Acres and my family.
The focus for Acres is to really groom the next generation of leaders. I've run it for 15 years now as CEO.
What does Acres do?
We're most popular now for our 24/7 rescue work.
But more importantly, we also focus on tackling wildlife crime through our wildlife investigation team. They do a lot of undercover work, a lot of inspections or undercover surveys of pet shops. We're out on our roadshows as well.
What is your stand on animals in zoos?
I think there is some use.
We're not against zoos or animals in captivity (for conservation) but we're against certain practices like elephant rides, photography sessions, dolphin contact sessions. But TripAdvisor taking that very strong stand and not selling tickets (to cruel wildlife attractions) now, that's going to be crucial.
There are good zoos and bad zoos.
What about the Singapore Zoo?
After all these years of campaigning, we are more towards a good zoo. We've stopped the elephant rides, the chimp photography, animal shows with circus-style tricks, they've agreed to phase out the keeping of Arctic animals.
How prevalent is the smuggling problem here?
It's statistically on the decline. When Acres started in 2001, you could go to the pet shop and buy star tortoises. And this is a jailable offence.
The first undercover we did for bear bile, we found 73.5 per cent of shops selling. We found tiger penis, tiger bone openly on sale. You will not find that now.
What's coming up in Acres?
We're focusing on two roadshows next year (for awareness): Firstly, animal sentience, showing that animals are like us - they have feelings, friends and families - and a whole roadshow in the second half of the year about our native wildlife.
What about NGOs like Voices for Animals which are worried about rising rental costs?
They will have to raise the funds. Ultimately, a charity has to raise its own dollars and cents. During a forum, somebody said the Government should just fund it. But you know we don't even build our own kidney dialysis centre.
If you want the Government to fund everything, that will never happen, because where will we draw the line?
Have you ever considered a coalition among animal groups in Singapore?
I think they submitted a proposal to the Ministry of National Development more than a year ago, all the animal groups coming together to request (unsuccessfully) for land. Part of the issue was that they requested for too much land.
Are you still working towards a shared space for animal groups?
Yes. It will take some time.
What is the status of the Yishun cat killings?
One guy was convicted. There have been other (suspects) but every lead has been investigated. It's hard to get evidence. If you know that area (has a) camera, (you won't) kill the cat there. We're going to put out more police cameras, not just to tackle cat killing, but it will also have that knock-on effect.
What is your favourite animal?
Housefly. Because they don't give up.
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