PM Lee replies to turtle museum owner's eviction appeal in Facebook post

Museum owner Connie Tan, with an African spurred tortoise, roaming freely at the Live Turtle and Tortoise museum in Chinese Garden in Jurong on Jan 12, 2015.
Museum owner Connie Tan, with an African spurred tortoise, roaming freely at the Live Turtle and Tortoise museum in Chinese Garden in Jurong on Jan 12, 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday morning (March 5) replied to a Facebook post by the Live Turtle & Tortoise Museum, which faces eviction from its Chinese Garden premises at the end of the month.

"Thank you for your post, which I have read. Please be assured that MND (Ministry of National Development) and the agencies are looking into your case," said Mr Lee.

Museum owner Connie Tan had on Sunday (March 4) made the post which was shared over 4,000 times in a day.

"When he responded, I was so touched. Hopefully someone will call me soon," Ms Tan told The Straits Times.

Before her lease expires on March 31, she is in a race against time for a new site for the family business, which was launched in 2001 but will have to make way for the development of the Jurong Lake District.

In the post, Ms Tan, 47, said she has reached out to four government agencies - the National Parks Board (NParks), Singapore Land Authority (SLA), the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) - but has yet to arrive at a solution.

Reasons cited by the agencies for the rejection include licensing and land use issues.

Previously, she had considered moving the museum to places such as Farmart Centre Singapore in Sungei Tengah, which conducts educational farm tours, and Orto, a multi-recreational park in Yishun, but none proved to be suitable.

She told The Straits Times: "For a tiny space at Farmart, they charge a really humongous price...

 

"Orto has another three years on its lease, which is not so viable because it will take at least five years to cover the build-up structure cost," she said.

She will shut down her 60-year-old events management company at Bukit Merah by next month to use her office space to temporarily house the turtles. The company was her main source of income.

Currently, she is looking into a possible site at Sungei Tengah, which is managed by a friend.

"Any land in Sungei Tengah not too far away from the bus stops or public transportation will be good, because visitors won't have to walk so far," she said.

"I'm trying to get a low-cost piece of land to keep prices down. In a commercial sense, I'm making the task a lot more difficult for myself."

Admission to the museum costs $5 for adults and $3 for senior citizens and children under six.

The museum is home to more than 500 turtles, tortoises and terrapins, many of them endangered.

But the animals, including rare species such as the African spurred tortoise and the alligator snapping turtle, will lose their home with the redevelopment of the Chinese Garden and its surroundings.

Plans for the area's makeover were first announced by Mr Lee at the National Day Rally in 2014. Jurong Lake Gardens will combine the existing Chinese and Japanese Gardens and Jurong Lake Park. A new Science Centre, to be completed around 2020, will also be included.