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Proposed animal sanctuary delayed due to lack of funding

By Koh Su-Lynn, Channel NewsAsia
31 May 2007

SINGAPORE: Over the past few years, more than 5,000 animals have been confiscated from being traded.

This is according to the "Animal Concerns Research and Education Society" or Acres.

It also added that more than half of the smuggled animals die.

So, to try and save the animals, Acres wants to build a sanctuary for them.

But the plan has hit a snag.

Blue was rescued from a factory in Singapore four years ago, and repatriated to a sanctuary in Zambia.

The vervet monkey has since settled in, and now has a wife, Toni, and two kids - Indigo and Sapphire.

"I think it's the very least that we can do for these animals. To get Blue, you have to kill his mother. He would have watched that," says Louis Ng, Executive Director of Acres.

"Packed in a crate, sent to Singapore on board a ship from Cape Town. Spent so many years in a cage. And I really believe that the very least that we can do for him when we rescue him, is to give him a bit of his life back. The reality is for most of these animals. They can never go back into the wild again."

A survey by Acres found one in five pet shops in Singapore illegally selling prohibited wild animals.

"We're not talking about say a small business here. It has become a billion dollar industry, that is literally raping our environment," says Ng.

"We all know the impact that this is having on the environment now and I think that we really need to step up our efforts here in Singapore to make a difference not just for our own society and community, but essentially for the animals," he continues.

The animal research group wants the public to join in the fight and blow the whistle on anyone who illegally owns or trades in exotic animals.

It operates the 24-hour Wildlife Crime Hotline.

It is also developing a two hectare site at Sungei Tengah into Singapore's first wildlife rescue centre, with a little help from the community.

20 May 2007 saw more than 120 youths from eight schools joining hands to paint the education centre and various enclosures.

Once completed, it will be able to hold 400 animals - primates, reptiles, marsupials, tortoises and turtles - seized from dealers and pet owners in Singapore.

It can be a place for animals to rest, before being sent back to their native countries.

Currently, many are euthanised.

"Singapore is one of the major hubs for the illegal wildlife trade in the world today, if not Asia at least. I think over the past few years, over 5000 animals have been confiscated from the wildlife tradeā€¦

"There is an urgent need to provide these animals with a sanctuary so that they can at least have a second lease of life. But more importantly, we want to use this rescue centre here as an educational facility.

"We sort of realise that if we go on rescuing animals, it will never end. So there is quite an important role to create awareness on what's illegal but most importantly, why it is illegal," says Ng.

When ready, the centre will start guided tours and overnight stays for students and members of the public.

So far, work is only halfway through.

Acres says it needs to raise just over a million dollars (around US$650,000) to build and run the sanctuary for a year.

The building cost is S$737,000 and the annual operating cost S$354,000.

Acres is appealing to the public for more funds to help give the animals a second chance at life.

More information on fund-raising can be found at www.acres.org.sg. - CNA/yy

editor: Donate a brick or even a tree today! Help make the wildlife rescue center a reality.

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