The Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum has been occupying the premises at Chinese Garden since its opening in 2001 and is currently looking for a new suitable location to house the animals when their lease ends in March next year.

Owner of the museum, Ms Connie Tan, 47, learnt about the redevelopment plans in 2014 when JTC Corporation handed over the management of Chinese Garden to National Parks (NParks). Her lease was extended for two years from March last year to give her time to look for a new location.  

The museum is the only turtle and tortoise private zoo in the world and entrance fees range from $3 to $5. It is home to over 500 turtles and tortoises spanning more than 40 species, holding a Guinness World Record for the largest collection of tortoises and turtles as well—60 percent of them were rescued while the rest were abandoned by members of the public and seized from the illegal trade.

Although she has three options in mind—Kusu Island, Kranji Farmart Centre and Orto in Yishun—she realised they were not feasible. Kusu Island was too inaccessible for visitors as it requires a 45 minute ferry ride south of Singapore. Also, the living conditions were not ideal as the area lacks healthy grass patches and the humidity was not suitable for the turtles and tortoises to lay eggs. Orto only has three years left on its lease, and the rent prices at Kranji Farmart Centre is too high—double of what she is currently paying.

Ms Tan has yet to find a suitable home for them even though she has only a mere seven months left. She’s hoping, however, that the museum will be granted permission to return to Chinese Garden after the redevelopment in 2020.

If the museum were to close for good, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) told TODAY that they can work with the museum to relocate its turtles and tortoises to “other approved premises”, and “facilitating the export of the animals, if required”.

However, Ms Tan hopes to keep them, as she regards the museum’s turtles and tortoises as her own. Some of these turtles have been living with Ms Tan since she was six years old and when the number multiplied, they occupied both her toilets in her five-room flat. “I am responsible for them. I will not give them to the zoo or any others as these are my pets,” said Ms Tan.