2 men fish rare turtle from Dakota canal, release it only after passers-by threaten to call police

Softshell turtles are often caught for consumption.

Ashley Tan | November 10, 2020, 05:23 PM

A group of passers-by in Singapore successfully saved the life of one softshell turtle after urging the men who had caught it to let it go.

Tried stuffing it in rice sack at Dakota Close

One Matthew Chua described the incident in a Facebook post in the group Nature Society Singapore.

Chua said that on Nov. 8, he happened to be passing by a canal at Dakota Close, where he spotted a crowd of people observing two men fishing from the canal.

It appeared that the men had managed to hook a large softshell turtle.

Photo from Matthew Chua / FB

The men then proceeded to stuff the turtle in a rice sack.

Photo from Matthew Chua / FB

Chua and two other men started to shout at the men to release the creature.

According to Chua, the two men did not seem to understand English, and he had had to converse with them in broken Mandarin.

After several threats that they would call the police, coupled with the large crowd of passers-by that had formed along the canal, the men unhooked the turtle, where it returned to its aquatic home.

In his post, Chua said that both men claimed to be unaware of nearby signage that fishing at the section of the canal they were at is prohibited.

Chua also speculated that the turtle had possibly been caught for food, and thanked the other two men involved.

"I would like to thank both the Indian and French gentleman for standing their ground and preventing the soft shell turtle from ending up as someone's dinner."

Turtle species native to Singapore

The turtle is an Asiatic softshell turtle, Deputy Chief Executive of Acres Anbarasi Boopal revealed in a comment on another post by Chua.

This species is native to Singapore, and is uncommon and poorly studied.

This is in contrast to their cousin, the Chinese softshell turtle, which can commonly be found in local waterways and is non-native.

Vulnerable species due to meat trade

Asiatic softshell turtles are listed as "Vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with one of their main threats being overexploitation as food.

Unfortunately, the consumption of turtles as delicacies is less controversial and well-known as that of sharks.

Turtle soup dishes are served at restaurants in Singapore and live turtles are sold at some wet markets in Singapore such as those in Chinatown.

SFA previously told Mothership that the slaughter of live turtles, frogs or eels is allowed as long as food vendors comply with the requirement under the Environmental Public Health Act.

This is despite the fact that it is illegal to sell and keep these turtles as pets, according to Acres.

SPCA Singapore and ACRES have been appealing for slaughter of animals like turtles to be restricted to slaughterhouses regulated by government agencies, and to end selling live animals at public wet markets and food stalls in Singapore.

Meanwhile, those who kill, trap, take or keep any wildlife can be fined up to S$50,000, jailed up to two years, or both.

In response to Mothership's queries, PUB stated that it is aware of the illegal fishing incident at the Dakota Close canal and is currently investigating the incident.

PUB is appealing for members of the public who had witnessed the incident and/or are aware of the identities of the two men involved, to contact them immediately at 1800-2255-782.

The agency also reminded members of the public that fishing is only permitted at designated fishing locations at reservoirs and waterways. The list of designated fishing locations can be found at https://www.pub.gov.sg/getinvolved/activities/fishing.

PUB added that it takes a serious view against illegal fishing activities and offenders may be fined up to $3,000.

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Top photo from Matthew Chua / FB