Yishun resident rescues exotic tortoise abandoned at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital after seeing online post

The tortoise was subsequently handed over to NParks.

Fiona Tan | July 29, 2021, 09:38 PM

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A man in Singapore has rescued an indian star tortoise left abandoned at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Yishun.

Image from Singapore Wildlife Sightings/Facebook.

Sighting on FB, Yishun resident to the rescue

This came after a netizen shared the sighting of the stranded tortoise on the Singapore Wildlife Sightings Facebook group on July 23.

Video from Singapore Wildlife Sightings/Facebook.

In the post, the netizen said the tortoise was seen earlier in the morning and asked if the tortoise was native to Singapore.

Image screenshot from Singapore Wildlife Sightings/Facebook.

Other netizens were quick to help point out the tortoise's species – indian star tortoise – and whether it was native to Singapore.

Image screenshot from Singapore Wildlife Sightings/Facebook.

Amongst the comments were also suggestions to enlist the help of wildlife rescue group Acres to rescue the creature, which was likely an illegally kept pet.

Image screenshot from Singapore Wildlife Sightings/Facebook.  

However, one netizen's response stood out from the rest.

After coming across the post, Ben Lim rescued the tortoise within the same day at about 2:40pm.

NParks: 'No visible injuries'

Speaking to Mothership, the Yishun resident said that his decision stemmed from his worries about the tortoise's winding up captive in the wrong hands, or as roadkill.

According to Lim, the tortoise was found near the herbs and vegetable garden, which was quite near to the road.

Image from Singapore Wildlife Sightings/Facebook.

Upon retrieving the tortoise, he reached out to Acres via WhatsApp, who later redirected him to the National Parks Board (NParks).

Lim subsequently handed the tortoise over to NParks at around 10:25pm on the same day (July 23).

Image screenshot from Singapore Wildlife Sightings/Facebook.

NParks' Group Director of Wildlife Management, Adrian Loo told Mothership that there was "no visible injuries" after its examination by vets.

In addition, Loo said the tortoise was likely a pet that was unwanted, and, was released into the environment as a result.

These animals will find it difficult to fend for themselves and are unlikely to survive in their new, unfamiliar surroundings, he said.

Tortoise not a S'pore native

Loo said that the netizens were right that the tortoise was an indian star tortoise, Geochelone elegans.

Reptiles from the genus are characterised by bold and contrasting patterns of yellow lines radiating from the growth centre of their black shells, which are broad, rounded and domed with distinct pyramids.

Image screenshot from Singapore Wildlife Sightings/Facebook.

Loo also confirmed that the indian star tortoise is non-native to Singapore.

Endemic, or otherwise native to India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the species of reptiles face threats from habitat loss and poaching for illegal trade, and have been classified as threatened.

In fact, indian star tortoises are the single most seized species of tortoise or freshwater turtle globally.

The release of such non-native species, if they manage to adapt and survive to the new environment, may disrupt the ecological balance of our natural habitats by competing with our native species for resources.

Indian star tortoises are also not in Singapore's list of approved pets, said Loo.

Prospective pet owners should only purchase pets that are under the approved list of pets and only from licensed pet shops, that have obtained the animals legally from regulated sources.

Under the Wildlife Act, offenders caught releasing wildlife may be fined up to S$5,000.

Top image from Singapore Wildlife Sightings/Facebook