Better if Acres had released rescued reptiles here

On Monday, the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) carried out a mass repatriation exercise and sent rescued reptiles back to Malaysia, including four giant Asian turtles (6 rescued turtles sent back to Malaysia by Acres; April 17).

It would have been better if the animals had been released somewhere safe right here in Singapore.

According to Acres, most of the six reptiles were found wandering in open places such as roads before they were rescued.

While it said that reptiles are preyed on by illegal traders on a large scale, serious doubts can be raised as to whether or not the turtles in question arrived here illegally. They could have been native to Singapore.

Admittedly, most records of wild giant Asian turtles are from north of Ipoh.

But other animals in this region also have disjointed distribution patterns, being present in the north and in Java, but not between Selangor and Johor.

While there are biological and climatic reasons for this, another valid counter-suggestion is that such records reflect not the actual distribution of the animals but that of the scientists who study them.

In the Singapore Biodiversity Records of Dec 20, 2013,Mr Kelvin K. P. Lim and Ms Fung Tze Kwan noted that a giant Asian turtle hatchling was run over by a vehicle in Upper Seletar.

This is convincing proof that the species is native to Singapore and breeding here.

During the 1960s, I have personally seen giant Asian turtles in both the Peirce and Mandai reservoirs.

Therefore, giant Asian turtles do have strong claims to be considered native to Singapore.

Acres therefore must not announce that there are problems where none exist and deplete Singapore's wildlife biodiversity by sending away animals that have every right to stay here.

Lee Chiu San

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2018, with the headline 'Better if Acres had released rescued reptiles here'. Print Edition | Subscribe