Extension for Chinese Garden turtle museum lease being considered

Museum owner Connie Tan had rejected an option to relocate to Kusu Island in May 2016. She said it would be "impossible to sustain" the museum on Kusu Island. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Government agencies are checking if they can give the Live Turtle & Tortoise Museum more time to secure suitable premises for the more than 500 turtles, tortoises and terrapins it houses even as the owner says sites offered so far have been unsuitable.

The museum has to vacate its Chinese Garden site of near 17 years on March 30.

In a joint statement on Wednesday (March 7), the Singapore Land Authority, Urban Redevelopment Authority, and the National Parks Board said NParks is "further studying the project timeline" to see if museum owner Connie Tan "can be given more time to firm up her plans".

The agencies said they had extended her lease twice from 2016. While empathising with the museum's need for time to source for an appropriate site, they also said Ms Tan had rejected an option to relocate to Kusu Island in May 2016.

In response, Ms Tan, 47, said it would be "impossible to sustain" the museum on Kusu Island, a 40-minute ferry ride from Marina South Pier.

"How do I survive with a business there? There are only a few boats there and back a day... People won't come."

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

She added that Kusu Island's harsh terrain was not at all conducive for turtles, after visiting it with the agencies.

"Their turtles and my turtles have a marked difference in health. Theirs look very lethargic," she said.

Her difficulty in rehoming her turtles saw her taking to Facebook on March 4. In a post on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's social media page, Ms Tan detailed how she had failed to find a suitable site.

Mr Lee responded the next day, saying government agencies would be looking into the case.

"I do have places to go now. People are coming forward to help me rehome my turtles. But their land use (stipulations) do not allow them to do so," said Ms Tan.

"Anywhere I go, anywhere I feel that the business can be sustained... I get rejected," she said.

She previously considered moving to places such as Farmart Centre Singapore in Sungei Tengah, which conducts educational farm tours, and Orto, a multi-recreational park in Yishun.

But she said Farmart was too expensive and Orto has only three years on its lease. Ms Tan explained that she would need at least five years to cover the cost of building a museum.

The museum is not drawn up into the ambitious Jurong Lake District project, which will transform the area into Singapore's second central business district that will provide more than 100,000 new jobs in sectors such as maritime, infrastructure and technology, as well as a further 20,000 homes.

Ms Tan has moved out of her events management office in Bukit Merah, and will use that space as a stopgap measure to house the turtles.

The company was her main source of income.

"All I ask is when I do find a place for my turtles, please allow me to stay there."

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