Friday, June 24, 2005

Seeking the green light for animal sanctuaries

YES Plans for halfway house on Pulau Ubin for confiscated wildlife get in-principle OK

The Straits Times, 24 Jun 05
By Chang Ai-Lien

SINGAPORE'S first wildlife rescue centre could be set up on Pulau Ubin, to provide a home for illegal animals brought into Singapore and confiscated by the authorities. The non-profit animal-rights group Acres has received in-principle approval from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) to set up the shelter, which will house primates, small carnivores and non-venomous snakes.

'We can't go on giving these animals to the zoo, which simply doesn't have the room,' Acres president Louis Ng said on Wednesday. 'So the centre would be like a halfway house for the animals before they are repatriated to other countries, though we may have to keep some of them for life.'

But before it raises the estimated $500,000 needed to set up the facility, Acres is waiting for the Singapore Land Authority - which suggested several sites on Ubin - to get approval from the Law Ministry for use of the land, he added.

Acres, or the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, said together with the AVA, it has rescued 60 wild animals since last November following tip-offs from the public. They include monkeys, exotic spiders and tortoises.

The rustic island of Ubin would be an ideal location for the sanctuary, as it would make it difficult for people who bought wild animals as pets on a whim to dump them there, said Mr Ng. All animals there would be micro-chipped, and the centre would have open-air enclosures for primates, and vets to make sure the animals are healthy. Members of the public will also be allowed to visit the facility on guided tours, he added, speaking on the sidelines of an international animal-welfare conference here.

Nature Society Singapore president and Nominated MP Geh Min, who officially opened the Asia for Animals conference on Wednesday, also highlighted Singapore's lack of a wildlife rescue centre. 'It's important to look at what happens when such animals are confiscated. We can't always introduce them into the wild,' she said.

The AVA, in confirming its approval of the centre, said confiscated animals are donated to institutions such as the Singapore Zoo, Jurong BirdPark and Underwater World in Sentosa. Major seizures are returned to the country of origin, while sick animals are put down humanely.

People with information on anyone keeping and selling exotic pets may call the AVA on 6227-0670 or Acres' 24-hour hotline on 9783-7782.

Source: Wild Singapore

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