PM Lee responds to Singapore turtle museum owner’s FB appeal- here’s what we know about the unique attraction

What do you do when you have a great cause on your hands but can’t move forward because you’ve hit a roadblock?

Many people would have just given up in despair, especially if they feel they’ve exhausted all avenues only to be rejected at every turn.

But not Ms Connie Tan, who runs the Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum in Singapore’s Chinese Garden.

Ms Connie Tan, owner of The Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum.
Lianhe Zaobao

The 17-year-old museum needs a new home as its lease expires on March 31. There are no plans to renew the site’s lease due to planned development of the Jurong Lake District.

It didn’t matter that Ms Tan couldn’t reach higher authorities directly, and had been turned down by at least four government agencies who could not help her.

Driven by a desire to keep her beloved pets safe, the museum owner wrote a detailed and heartfelt plea to the leader of the nation, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The 47-year-old’s Facebook post quickly went viral, and it took the premier just one day to respond in the comment section.

Assuring Ms Tan that he had read her post, PM Lee wrote: “Please be assured that MND (Ministry of National Development) and the agencies are looking into your case.”

It may have been a simple reply, but the PM’s response has allowed thousands who read about the museum’s plight to heave a sigh of relief.

Based on past reports in local media, here are some things we know about the unique local attraction in the far west of Singapore.

Ms Tan started her unique turtle and tortoise attraction with her father Danny Tan in 2001.

The Straits Times

In a 2005 interview with The Sunday Times, Mr Tan, who has since died, said that his obsession with turtles and tortoises started in 1967.

By 2001, the father and daughter duo had already collected more than 1,000 live turtles, tortoises and terrapins, which they kept in tanks and a pond.

The late Mr Danny Tan and his daughter Connie with their collection of live and ceramic turtles and tortoises.
The Straits Times

By 2005, they had the world’s largest collection of turtle- and tortoise-shaped artefacts – a feat which was recorded in the Guinness World Records.

Shin Min Daily News

The report said that the Tans had spent $600,000 on their entire collection, which included 3,000 artefacts.

The Straits Times

According to The Straits Times, the museum houses more than 500 turtles, tortoises and terrapins today.

The Straits Times

“They are the most amazing ancient lifeform that is still around today, and the design on the shell is simply beautiful,” Mr Tan was quoted as saying in 2005.

After starting his collection, the elder Tan learned that turtles and tortoises represent longevity and good fortune in Chinese culture.

The Straits Times

The museum was initially located at Neil Road, but moved to Chinese Garden due to high rents in the city.

The Straits Times

In 2009, 10 exotic tortoises valued at $74,400 were stolen from the museum, in what was the third case of theft there. The year before, 18 tortoises worth more than $80,000 were also stolen. Fortunately, most of the stolen tortoises were recovered with the help of authorities.

Four years later however, an endangered star tortoise worth $2,000 was again taken from the museum. Two men were charged in connection with the case.

CCTV footage showing two men taking an endangered tortoise from the museum in 2013.
The Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum

Through the years, the museum has not changed its admission fees. It opens daily from 9:30am to 6pm, and entry is priced at just $5 for adults, and $3 for senior citizens and children under six.

The Straits Times

Ms Tan has insisted on keeping fees low as she wanted the museum to be an accessible educational source for children in Singapore. The museum has even gone into the red for a few years, she said.

The Straits Times

While the turtle museum is her passion, The Straits Times reported that Ms Tan’s main income actually comes from running her family’s 60-year-old events company.

But now, she plans to shut the company down so she can use the office space to temporarily house the turtles before a new home is found.

The Straits Times