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  Today Online 27 Sep 07
Little help for our wild friends
More funds needed to create awareness of illegal wildlife trade here

Sheralyn Tay

THE sprawling enclosures lush with greenery and tender care will be a welcome respite from the confines of their previous homes tiny cages and cramped tanks.

But funds for the first rescue centre that will house seized illegal animals set up by the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), have been slow to come in.

According to Acres president and executive director Louis Ng, the Acres Wildlife Rescue Centre (AWRC) is almost complete and is slated to open in the middle of next month. But it is still in dire need of funds.

The centre has raised $627,000 since October last year and needs another $460,000 to cover operations costs. But while donations from the public, which has donated 46 per cent of the money raised so far, corporations have not been as forthcoming, contributing to about 25 per cent.

"Most (corporations) have declined funding because the project does not fall under their funding criteria or they have an existing adopted charity," Mr Ng said. "We are confident, however, that if the public and corporate (sectors) learn about our predicament, they will contribute to the AWRC," he said.

In spite of these challenges, Acres is determined to continue its efforts and has resorted to taking loans worth $110,000, free of interest, from its members.

"If we don't set up this centre, no one else will help these animals," said Mr Ng.

The centre, which can house up to 400 animals, will provide a temporary home for prohibited creatures that have been confiscated or given up, such as star tortoises, gibbons, pythons and leopard geckos.

At the moment, seized animals are given to the zoo, the live turtle and tortoise museum, or the Chinese Gardens.

But this is not ideal, he said. "They've lived so long in cages, so it is time to live in open air enclosures," he said.

But ultimately, the aim is to repatriate as many of these animals home as possible. For those who are unfit to go home, the AWRC will be their permanent home.

The AWRC will also serve as an educational centre that will raise the awareness of the illegal pet trade.

An Acres survey of 100 shops in 2005 found one in five selling animals facing extinction. And between 2001 and last year, about 4,000 wild animals have been confiscated or given up by the public.

Mr Ng hopes the AWRC will be able to help create the much-needed awareness on the illegal wildlife trade and environmental protection issues.

"We hope that the corporates will play an increasing role in the contributing to this growing movement," he added.

To mark World Animal Day, Acres will be celebrating Singaporean's support for animal protection efforts with a three-day festival from Oct 5 to 7 at The Atrium @ Orchard (beside Plaza Singapura). Log on to www. acres.org.sg to donate or to find out more about the AWRC.

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