SINGAPORE: An endangered Malaysian giant turtle rescued in Singapore has been sent back to Malaysia to get a second chance at living in the wild, said the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) on Thursday (Feb 2).
The turtle, named Rahayu, was rescued by ACRES in October 2015 after it was found crossing a road in Lim Chu Kang with a fish hook lodged in its mouth. The hook has since been removed.
The 30kg turtle is the first live reptile to be repatriated by ACRES. It will be handed over to local authorities in Johor, and will be released in a protected nature reserve in the northern part of Malaysia.
Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, who helped transfer Rahayu into a crate for its journey to Malaysia, said the turtle was likely kept as a pet and abandoned.
“It is not easy to send these creatures home but the Malaysian Wildlife Department would be receiving Rahayu in Johor and will reintroduce her back into her world,” he said in a post on Facebook on Thursday.
Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin and ACRES chief executive and Nee Soon GRC MP, Louis Ng, helping to transfer Rahayu into a transport crate. (Photo: Tan Chuan-Jin's Facebook page)
Before repatriating an animal, ACRES has to determine if it is fit to be released into the wild and apply for permits to transport the animal across borders, said the non-profit organisation’s deputy chief executive, Kalai Balakrishnan. The whole process could take up to one-and-a-half months, he said.
"We need to work with the authorities in the country we're sending the animals back to. To negotiate how we want to send them back and whether the animal will be released eventually," said Mr Balakrishnan.
He said ACRES has seen an increase in the number of online advertisements selling illegal wildlife. Currently, there are no regulations governing the online sale of animals, although ACRES is pushing for a ban.
"People want to keep something different, something exotic. But these animals are smuggled in and you never know how they are smuggled in. The whole process is cruel so people need to think about how the animals come in here," said Mr Balakrishnan.