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'Farm girl' sad at closure of popular Seletar petting farm, her family’s home for 20 years, to make way for roads

SINGAPORE — In 2000, aged 15, Ms Joanne Lim initially detested living among farm animals as her family launched The Animal Resort, a 2ha petting farm in Seletar. But 20 years on, she has grown to love the animals and is sad that the place is about to close after the authorities said that part of the land will soon be needed for new roads.

Ms Joanne Lim feeds a horse at The Animal Resort, a popular petting farm, which has been her family's home for 20 years.

Ms Joanne Lim feeds a horse at The Animal Resort, a popular petting farm, which has been her family's home for 20 years.

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  • Ms Joanne Lim’s family set up The Animal Resort in Seletar in 2000
  • The petting farm has been popular among school children and young families
  • The family was told part of the 2ha site will be needed for roads in future 
  • In the meantime, they were asked to renovate the place, at an estimated cost of S$250,000
  • The family is unwilling to spend the sum for the brief extension, so the farm will be closed to visitors on Jan 10

 

SINGAPORE — In 2000, aged 15, Ms Joanne Lim initially detested living among farm animals as her family launched The Animal Resort, a 2ha petting farm in Seletar. But 20 years on, she has grown to love the animals and is sad that the place is about to close after the authorities said that part of the land will soon be needed for new roads.

Ms Lim, now 35, told TODAY that she disliked her first year living on the farm while her friends lived in city areas. Her secondary schoolmates would even call her “farm girl’’ and make fun of her for living in such an “ulu’’ (Malay for remote) place.

At first, she was disturbed by the roosters crowing at 4am and hated waking up to attend to the animals but she soon grew to enjoy the experience. As she got used to the environment, she came to appreciate its peace and tranquillity.

“As a teenager, you just want to go out and play with your friends. So I was, like, ‘Why am I in this place? Why did my family even have to open a farm?’

“But after I got used to it, and the difficulty travelling in and out, I really fell in love with the place. I started waking up feeling so happy, realising the air is so fresh, seeing foggy skies when we wake up in the morning, it feels like you’re in Genting (Highlands),” she said, referring to the popular hilly resort in Malaysia.

“It became a really fun experience,” she added. Ms Lim is now the general manager at the farm. She has been working at the farm full-time for five years after dabbling in other careers.

The Animal Resort in Seletar will close its doors to visitors on Jan 10, 2021. Photo: Nuria Ling/TODAY

However, early next year, the family and the animals will vacate the premises. The farm’s operators announced in a Facebook post on Wednesday (Dec 2) that they will close its doors to visitors on Jan 10 next year.

They will turn over the land to the authorities.

Ms Lim said that they were informed of plans to use part of the land for new roads at a meeting on Sept 10 with JTC Corporation, the new landlord for the area, and the National Parks Board (NParks), which manages the plot of land the farm occupies, as well as the Singapore Land Authority and the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

Ms Lim’s father, Mr Thierry Lim, 63, told TODAY that he won the tender for the land 20 years ago. It was previously home to Noah's Ark Natural Animal Sanctuary, which has since moved to Johor Baru, Malaysia. Mr Lim started to care for the abandoned animals that were left behind.

This was disputed by Noah’s Ark Natural Animal Shelter, which wrote to TODAY after the article was published. 

"All animals belonging to the sanctuary were transported from Seletar to their new home in Johor. The animals that did not make the journey did not belong to the sanctuary. Their caregivers did not want them to be transferred to Johor," said a spokesperson for the shelter.
 

Mr Thierry Lim, who set up The Animal Resort in 2000. Photo: Nuria Ling/TODAY

The Lim family said that when they started caring for the animals, they already had other pet-related businesses, which have now been running for more than 44 years, including a pet relocation service and pet boarding services.

“We’ve been doing educational programmes for children, where kindergartens and preschools bring their students here to interact with the animals, but once this place is gone, there no longer will be places for kids to get up close with the animals,” Mr Lim said.

“They have to either go to the zoo or travel overseas.” 

The farm is popular among families with young children who hope to interact with the rabbits, peacocks, ducks, geese, a horse and other animals.

WHY THEY NEED TO VACATE

In January this year, Mr Lim said that BCA conducted a review of the farms around Singapore and brought in a professional engineer to check on the farm’s buildings.

After the inspection, the family was provided with recommended rectification works set out in an engineer’s report. They were told that if they failed to do these works, they would not be able to renew their lease, which would be up this month.

BCA also required the family to engage an engineer to inspect the farm to assess the rectification works and submit the report to the authority. They were also asked to engage an asbestos specialist to inspect the place for asbestos-containing materials and submit the report as well.

“For the past six years, we’ve been renewing our lease every one to two years because the authorities have informed us that this area will be up for redevelopment soon. We were finally told that by September 2022, we would have to vacate the area,” Ms Lim said.

Her father said that the family decided against forking out S$250,000 to S$300,000 — an amount they have been quoted by various contractors to renovate the place and engage a professional engineer — given that they could remain on the site only for another year and nine months.

He said: “I understand that some of the structures have been around for 30 to 40 years and I told them that I can make good of some of their requirements but the extent of what they’re asking for is too much. 

“It just doesn’t make sense. It’s not viable to put all that money in and only continue to open for such a short while.”

Mr Lim added that if the family could renew their lease for longer, they would “definitely” pay the price.

Ms Lim said: “We did try to negotiate to stay and even told NParks that this is a 2ha land, but we are using only half of it. They said more than half will be used for roads.”

'I WILL MISS SPEAKING TO THE ANIMALS'

Once the family leaves the farm, Ms Lim said that she will miss interacting with the animals every day. The authorities have given the family a grace period until March next year to vacate the area.

“I’m so used to seeing them every day and saying ‘hi’. I love to talk to animals. Some people might think I’m crazy but if you’re an animal lover, I think you’ll understand,” she said.

The Lim family was told that part of the 2ha site will be used for new roads. Photo: Nuria Ling/ TODAY

The family is now making preparations to rehome their 50 or so animals to other farms in Lim Chu Kang and Sungei Tengah and even Malaysia.

Their farm is not the only one affected. A sub-tenant, Mr Alvin Seah, the owner of Mobile Pet Cremation Services, which has been there for 12 years, said that he is feeling “lost”.

“I just don’t know what to do because moving is going to be very expensive. Maybe around S$100,000 to build up something like this again and the places I’ve contacted only have leases for up to three to four years.”

In a joint reply to TODAY’s queries, the National Parks Board (NParks), JTC and the Building and Construction Authority said on Sunday (Dec 6) that they are working with The Animal Resort to rehome its animals and find alternative premises for its pet-related businesses.

The owner, Mr Lim, has also been advised to consider bidding for commercial units for his retail business, the agencies said.

He has also taken up a commercial unit which had been previously allocated to him at The Animal Lodge, a facility for pet farms and animal shelters managed by NParks at Sungei Tengah, allowing him to continue with his pet boarding business, they said.

“JTC and NParks had suggested other sites for the tenant to tender for the petting farm but they were assessed by the tenant to be unsuitable. As such, NParks has been exploring options for the rehoming of his animals and will continue to work closely with him to ensure the animals’ welfare and health,” added the agencies.

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The Animal Resort Seletar closure farm

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