Updated: Jul 4
It was my first day volunteering for ACRES yesterday. Finally, after COVID I have gotten hands on experience with wildlife, something I have been wanting ever since the start of my project. But first, a little bit about ACRES.
Entrance to the Sanctuary @ ACRES
What Is ACRES?
ACRES (Animal Concerns Research & Education Society) is a Singaporean NGO that works on various animal protection issues. They do this in multiple ways. The first, and perhaps what they are most known for, is wildlife rescue. Whenever a wild animal like a snake or monitor lizard enters urban zones for humans, the affected people can call ACRES to rescue this animal and avoid any conflict. ACRES has a van that they send out with a team of people to rescue this animal, and then rehabilitate it into wild areas once again. However, sometimes these creatures can be injured, in which case they a have a prolonged stay at the ACRES facility to get better, before being reintroduced to the wild, if possible.
The second thing that ACRES does is rescue victims from the illegal pet trade. Unfortunately, Singapore is one of the top 10 hubs in the world for the illegal pet trade. Many people in Singapore keep expensive endangered creatures from all over the world as exotic pets, which is not only terrible for the endangered animals, but also could be horrible for the Singaporean wild habitat. This is because exotic pet owners often only keep their pets for a while, before abandoning them in Singapore's many nature trails or national parks. This could be because the owner got bored of the pet, or maybe because the pet grew too large, and was difficult to look after. Once released in nature, these animals sometimes reproduce in Singapore, creating an alien and invasive population that threatens to disrupt Singapore's natural ecosystem. This is why ACRES tries to rescue as many of these animals as possible, and return them to the wild in their native countries. Recently, they managed to send back 51 Indian Star Tortoises back to India through a collaboration with Wildlife SOS.
Another thing that ACRES does is organize sting operations to catch dealers of endangered animal parts. This may include tiger claws, pangolin scales, and rhino horn. They go undercover both online and in person to catch dealers red-handed, and then hand them over to the right authorities for further action.
Overall, ACRES work is exciting, but arduous and shows their genuine passion for Singapore's wildlife.
Day 1 as an ACRES Volunteer
My first day as a volunteer started at the ACRES facility with some maintenance work in the sanctuary. The sanctuary is a place where ACRES keeps all of its turtles and tortoises from the illegal pet trade. I started by replacing some of the water and cleaning out little tubs for these animals to wet themselves if needed. Then, I swept the inside of the enclosures for any leftover food or feces. Finally, for the aquatic species I used a net to take out any debris that may have fallen into the water.
African Spurred Tortoises, Radiated Tortoises Native to Madagascar & Iguana
I finished my morning by cleaning the indoor habitats for the desert tortoises. Some species ACRES have, such as the Indian Star Tortoise, are used to arid environments, and therefore don't do well in Singapore's climate. They are kept indoors at night or during heavy rain.
Star Tortoises & Night Holding Dens
After lunch, I shadowed some staff members giving an educational tour of the facility. I am going to be facilitating one myself in the coming weeks, so I needed to know the general flow of how it was going to work. They first explained to the children about the importance of not littering, and also how to act when you encounter wild animals. After this, they went on a tour of the facility, talking about the dangers of invasive species, what to do if they see any wild animals in human areas.
All in all, I really enjoyed my day with ACRES, and definitely appreciate what people are doing for these animals. After nearly 3 years, I have finally managed to get some hands on experience with caring for animals. Next week, I will accompany the animal rescue team on their missions. Stay tuned...