Time is running out for over 500 tortoises and turtles at The Live Turtle & Tortoise Museum at Jurong Lake Gardens Central.
The lease of this little-known place will expire in March next year, to make way for the ambitious development of the Jurong Lake District, and museum owner Connie Tan, 47, has yet to find a new site for her 16-year-old family business.
She had considered options such as Kusu Island, Farmart Centre Singapore in Sungei Tengah, which conducts educational farm tours, and Orto, a multi-recreational park in Yishun, but none was suitable.
"Kusu Island is logistically and environmentally not suitable; Farmart is working from a very commercial point of view, and Orto could not get SLA's (Singapore Land Authority) clearance for us to be there," said Ms Tan, who is also the managing director for an events company. "I am exasperated as I am being pushed from one person to another."
The museum was started by Ms Tan and her late father, Mr Danny Tan, in 2001 to give children a chance to learn about different species of turtles and tortoises.
Ms Tan, who is the younger of two daughters, began keeping a turtle as a pet because her mother did not allow her to have a dog or cat - turtles were cheap and could be hidden under the bed. She soon fell in love with the turtles' unusual beauty.
As she grew older, her collection of turtles expanded with the help of her father, who also shared her passion. Mr Tan died two years ago at age 77.
The museum's living collection includes the world's third-largest species of tortoise (the African spurred tortoise), the most beautiful (radiated star tortoise), and the most dangerous (alligator snapping turtle).Lim Yaohui
The museum's living collection includes the world's third-largest species of tortoise (the African spurred tortoise), the most beautiful (radiated star tortoise), and the most dangerous (alligator snapping turtle).
Today, the museum accepts walk-in visits and conducts group tours and workshops for children. Admission costs $5 for adults, and $3 for senior citizens and children under six.
"This is my third time here and first time with the learning centre. The kids love the turtles and tortoises. This is the only place, other than the zoo, where they can see these animals," said Ms Suriani Suhaimi, 35, director of Bright Beginnings Learning Centre, who was on a group tour with 25 children, aged two to six, last Tuesday.
The museum currently holds the Guinness World Record for the largest collection of tortoise and turtle items. It has 3,456 turtle items and over 500 live animals, spanning 40 different species.
These reptiles are mainly from Ms Tan's own collection and they come from all over the world, including China, Madagascar, Malaysia, India, Myanmar and South America.
"This is the only tortoise and turtle museum in the world, and it's a place that is one of a kind," said Ms Tan. "I hope my love for them will translate the wonder of these beautiful creatures to one and all. It is difficult to do business in Singapore, I am trying my best. If it cannot be supported, then I will have to fold and Singapore will lose this unique place."
Correction note: The story has been edited to correct the honorific for Ms Suriani Suhaimi. We are sorry for the error.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2017, with the headline 'Bye, turtles?'. Print Edition | Subscribe
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