Rescued giant turtle sent home to Malaysia

SIAU MING EN Today Online 2 Feb 17;

SINGAPORE — Given its slightly deformed shell, the Malaysian giant turtle called Rahayu was likely kept illegally as a pet in a confined space, before it was abandoned and found wandering in the Lim Chu Kang area in Singapore.

It was rescued by the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres).

If it were to stay here longer, the endangered freshwater creature — which measures about 60cm to 70cm in length and weighs about 30kg — would remain in captivity and have less space to move around, further affecting its well-being.

After it is picked up by the Malaysian authorities, Rahayu will be released into a nature reserve in 

Speaking to the media, Acres founder Louis Ng said that there is a limit to the size and type of enclosure that the society can build for the turtle. Captivity will also alter its behaviour.

However, repatriating wild animals can also be difficult, such as the long periods spent liaising with the receiving parties as well as processing the necessary permits.

“In this case, we are very thankful that the Perhilitan in Malaysia (counterpart of the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore) has been very receptive and very responsive as well … We want to make sure that Rahayu doesn’t go back to Malaysia and ends up in another enclosure for the rest of her life,” Mr Ng added.

A member of the public sent the turtle to Acres after it was spotted crossing the road in the Lim Chu Kang area in October 2015.

A fish hook was also lodged in its mouth then, but that has since been removed.

Malaysian giant turtles — the largest species of freshwater turtles in South-east Asia — are listed as an endangered species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

They are threatened by the meat trade, the demand in traditional Chinese medicine as well as the illegal pet trade.

Before Rahayu, Acres had previously sent Blue, a vervet monkey back to Zambia in 2004 and Asha, a rhesus macaque to India in 2006.

The society covered the costs of transporting these animals, including that for Rahayu on Thursday, but did not disclose the sum.

The majority of the more than 100 wild animals housed at the Acres Wildlife Rescue Centre near Choa Chu Kang are also waiting to be sent back into the wild in their native countries, including the star tortoises, pig-nosed turtles and green iguanas.

For now, the society is working with the relevant authorities to send the star tortoises back to India.

Singapore’s Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, who helped move Rahayu into a transport crate on Thursday, said that while voluntary welfare organisations such as Acres try where possible to repatriate wildlife, the main concern is the illegal wildlife trade.

“I would call on the public … to at least put a stop to it on our end, by just not being participants in terms of collecting exotic pets,” Mr Tan added.

Rescued giant turtle sent back home to Malaysia
Vanessa Lim Channel NewsAsia 2 Feb 17;

SINGAPORE: An endangered Malaysian giant turtle rescued in Singapore has been sent back to Malaysia to get a second chance at living in the wild, said the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) on Thursday (Feb 2).

The turtle, named Rahayu, was rescued by ACRES in October 2015 after it was found crossing a road in Lim Chu Kang with a fish hook lodged in its mouth. The hook has since been removed.

The 30kg turtle is the first live reptile to be repatriated by ACRES. It will be handed over to local authorities in Johor, and will be released in a protected nature reserve in the northern part of Malaysia.

Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, who helped transfer Rahayu into a crate for its journey to Malaysia, said the turtle was likely kept as a pet and abandoned.

“It is not easy to send these creatures home but the Malaysian Wildlife Department would be receiving Rahayu in Johor and will reintroduce her back into her world,” he said in a post on Facebook on Thursday.

Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin and ACRES chief executive and Nee Soon GRC MP, Louis Ng, helping to transfer Rahayu into a transport crate. (Photo: Tan Chuan-Jin's Facebook page)

Before repatriating an animal, ACRES has to determine if it is fit to be released into the wild and apply for permits to transport the animal across borders, said the non-profit organisation’s deputy chief executive, Kalai Balakrishnan. The whole process could take up to one-and-a-half months, he said.

"We need to work with the authorities in the country we're sending the animals back to. To negotiate how we want to send them back and whether the animal will be released eventually," said Mr Balakrishnan.

He said ACRES has seen an increase in the number of online advertisements selling illegal wildlife. Currently, there are no regulations governing the online sale of animals, although ACRES is pushing for a ban.

"People want to keep something different, something exotic. But these animals are smuggled in and you never know how they are smuggled in. The whole process is cruel so people need to think about how the animals come in here," said Mr Balakrishnan.

- CNA/cy

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