SINGAPORE: Four giant Asian turtles and two elongated tortoises, an endangered species, were repatriated to their home country Malaysia on Monday (Apr 16).
It is part of efforts by Singapore's Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) to rehabilitate animals which have been rescued from the illegal wildlife trade.
Last February, the animal welfare group repatriated its first live reptile, an endangered Malaysian giant turtle named Rahayu, to Malaysia.
"Since then, we promised ourselves to do everything we could to give a second chance for Rahayu's friends still residing in our sanctuary," ACRES wrote in a Facebook post.
"It took us another whole year, but today we are finally sending Boltz, Andrea, Audrey, Ayu, Comot and Comel home to Malaysia!"
Of the six reptiles, the story of Boltz the Giant Asian Pond turtle has been most widely shared by ACRES. He was rescued in 2011 after a member of the public saw him being run over by a lorry. The accident left him with severe injuries, including a crack on his shell that looked like a lightning bolt, hence his name.
"I still remember the first night he came, he was all bleeding, he had massive bleeding, his shell was completely fractured, and we didn’t think he will make it. So many other turtles we have rescued with a similar fate didn’t make it," said ACRES deputy chief executive Kalai Vanan, adding the Boltz' resilience helped it on the road to recovery.
Then there was Comot the elongated tortoise which was found two years ago walking along the road near the nature reserve at Seraya Crescent, and Audrey who was found in 2011 wandering around a bus stop.
The repatriation of the reptiles was documented on social media through a series of live videos and updates.
At about 4.30pm, ACRES posted that the animals had left Singapore, and at 9pm, it said that they had passed the borders and were in the clear to proceed.
Mr Kalai said the repatriation was very important not just for animals: "It is also a message to everyone out there that many of these animals which are smuggled in - they do deserve a second chance at life."
"In the wild there will be no enclosure to confine them, they will be able to roam free and wild … Being endangered and vulnerable as they are, they can now meet other animals of the same species and reproduce," he added.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam, who attended the repatriation event, highlighted the importance of raising awareness on the illegal wildlife trade.
"Wildlife trade is not going to be stopped simply by us saying it should be stopped, or having legislation," the minister said. "I think it can only come about through education. Human beings are innately good people."
"We look at the story of Boltz and the other turtles here, it’s really heart-rending. People look at them – they are small and cute, (they) take them as pets - (it) shouldn’t be done."