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Rescued giant turtle sent home to Malaysia

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.

Rescued giant turtle sent home to Malaysia

Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin and Acres founder and CEO Louis Ng (in white) transferring Rahayu, the rescued Malaysian giant turtle, into a transport crate back to Pahang. Photo: Wee Teck Hian/TODAY

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 
Pahang.

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.

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