Heart Break and Cruelty to Turtles at Singapore’s Chinese Gardens Despite Beautiful Bonsai Trees

My visit to the Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum in Singapore was a horrific experience. The museum houses a collection of sad and poorly treated animals, some of which are endangered. It is located in the Chinese Gardens of Singapore. Witnessing such heart breaking scenes and cruelty to turtles ruined my day, despite the delightful collection of bonsai trees on display in the gardens.

I decided to visit the museum after reading about it on the Time Out website, which described it as a collection of the world’s rarest turtles and tortoises that was opened in the hopes of educating the public about carapaced creatures. I am actually disgusted that Time Out would promote such a sad institution.

The museum costs $5 to enter and you can also buy some greens to feed the turtle and tortoises. Most of the tortoises are housed in concrete pools that don’t contain any food or water and many are in isolation. Singapore weather is extremely hot and the tortoises were all hiding in their shells at the very corners of their boxes to avoid the midday sun.

Most of the  tortoises live in concrete boxes that have no water, food or greenery.

Most of the tortoises live in concrete boxes that have no water, food or greenery.

The world’s largest river turtle is also housed in one of these boxes and named as the Fortune Turtle by the museum. Visitors are encouraged to throw a coin into the water for good luck. Sadly, all the water has evaporated and the poor turtle sits amid a litter of rusty coins in this barren concrete box. I watched as some tourists tried to feed him but he appeared too depressed to eat and just hid his head in his shell.

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Visitors are encouraged to throw coins into the pool, even though there is no water in it.

The world’s largest river turtle sits amongst coins in this concrete box and doesn't eat any food offered to him.

The world’s largest river turtle sits amongst coins in this concrete box and doesn’t eat any food offered to him. His shell appears to be rusty and dirty.

The museum also has a lot of water tanks where more turtles live. These tanks are tiny and a single medium turtle lives in one in isolation and with barely enough space to roam around. I felt particularly despondent for the pig nosed turtles who flap their flippers wildly and look out at you from their tanks whenever anyone walks by. This breed of turtle is known to be extremely active and they require spacious environments. A few of the pig nosed turtles appeared to have flippers that were injured with the nails broken. One of the tanks had leaked all of its water out onto the floor and the poor turtle had stopped moving and his nose was in the fraction of water remaining in the corner. It was obvious cruelty to turtles and I told the lady at the desk the turtle needed help but she brushed me off with the excuse that they were just cleaning the tank and his water would be refilled soon.

Turtles are expected to live in these small tanks without enough room to roam around.

Turtles are expected to live in these small tanks without much room to roam around.

The pig nose turtle flaps wildly when people pass by. The museum says to disregard this as normal.

The pig nose turtle flaps wildly when people pass by. The museum says to disregard this as normal as they are domesticated but the true reason is because they are easily startled by noises. 

All of the water from this tank has leaked onto the floor and the pig nosed turtle has his nose in the small corner of water remaining.

All of the water from this tank has leaked onto the floor and the pig nosed turtle keeps his nose in the small corner of water remaining and is very still.

In the centre of the museum is a large pond where a lot of turtles live more freely and I believe they have a better quality of life. However overall I found this museum to be very sad highlighting such cruelty to turtles and I was disappointed to witness such scenes in Singapore.

Please join me in the push to improve conditions for these wonderful animals by complaining to the museum directly at sales@turtle-tortoise.com and by notifying the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Singapore. Turtles live very long lives, sometimes more than 100 years, and to be trapped for that long in this museum would be extremely cruel.

There is a pond at the centre of the museum that is crowded with turtles that appear to live more freely.

There is a pond at the centre of the museum that is crowded with turtles that appear to live more freely.

Visitors can buy food to feed the turtles.

Visitors can buy food to feed the turtles and don’t realise the cruelty to turtles. 

Hungry turtles compete for food offered by visitors.

Hungry turtles compete for food offered by visitors.

Despite the cruelty to turtles and horrific scenes at the Live  Turtle and Tortoise Museum, the Chinese Gardens in Singapore is still worth a visit because it houses a special collection of bonsai trees. Bonsai is the Japanese pronunciation of the original Chinese name Pensai. They are miniature trees specially designed and grown to replicate the characteristics of a larger tree. A successful bonsai allows the viewer to  contemplate the illusion of being part of an actual forest or larger scene in nature.

The collection of bonsai trees is a very special display that is part of the Chinese Gardens.

The collection of bonsai trees is a very special display that is part of the Chinese Gardens.

This bonsai passes the test, I can imagine sitting at the base of those entwined roots and thinking it is a large tree!

This bonsai passes the test, I can imagine sitting at the base of those entwined roots in awe of such grandeur. 

I loved the numerous branches and little leaves of this particular bonsai.

I loved the numerous branches and little leaves of this particular bonsai.

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