Tuesday, 6 March 2001

Oh, for a home, where the animals roam...

THE former "residents" of Noah's Ark Lodge in Seletar have settled into their new home.
Seven months ago, the animals were moved to Pekan Nanas in Johor Baru.

Now, their home is called just Nanas, or Noah's Ark Natural Animal Sanctuary.

And it has given a new lease of life to some 350 creatures.

It is something like a retirement village for strays and abandoned animals,
mostly dogs and cats.

But Nanas also houses gibbons, chipmunks, peacocks, goats, a pony and an
albino snake.

Mr Raymund Wee, the man behind Noah's Ark, has big plans for the future.
He intends to organise eco-tours for the young and recreation trips for the

The new site, almost as big as five soccer fields, is located off Kampong
Choh in Gelang Patah, a quiet town reminiscent of Singapore in the 50s.
Said Mr Wee, 51: "I was initially upset when we had to vacate our site in

"I was worried that the animals would find it difficult to adjust to the
change in environment.
"True enough, some of the elderly animals died during the move... but the rest
are now more or less settled in their new home, and they also have more space
to move about."

The animal-lover plans to build pondoks (huts) for retired and elderly folks
from Singapore to "rough it out" in the natural environment.

Mr Wee said: "In time to come, I will try to organise groups of retired and
elderly folks to come up to the sanctuary.

"They need not help out with the physical work like bathing the dogs or
washing the enclosures, but they must be people who love animals and nature.

"The aim is to provide them with a place in which to relax and enjoy nature."

Mr Wee added that he also has plans to organise eco-tours for school children
so that they will be better informed about nature conservation and learn how
to co-exist with nature.

As he spoke, his pet gibbon, Sarah, clung to him, perching on his shoulder
and tugging at his hair affectionately.

But Mr Wee doesn't let all his animals climb over him.

A loud "No!" and "Out!" from him was sufficient for the animals to know that
he meant business, and they scuttled out of the way obediently.

Said Mr Wee, who runs a dog grooming business (The Doggy Salon) in Singapore:

"Melody (the pony) and the goats get along fabulously.
"When the durian trees are fruiting, Melody will use her hoofs to stomp open
the thorny husk and share the fruit with the goats."

The sanctuary is a 45-minute drive from the Second Link at Tuas.

Its 20-strong pool of volunteers drive up every weekend to help out with
various tasks.

Said a regular volunteer, a graphic designer in her 40s, who wanted to be
known only as Ms Soo: "I try to come up every weekend to see all the animals,
as well as my four cats which are boarding here.

"It's a pleasant change from the fast-paced city life in Singapore."

Mr Christopher Loh, 25, a sales promoter who has been volunteering at the
sanctuary for about seven years, agreed.

He said: "I find that it's very fulfilling to be with the animals, especially
the dogs, as they can be very emotional animals.

"Since I'm not allowed to keep pets at home because my father disapproves,
coming to the sanctuary is the best option."

The volunteers help walk and groom the dogs, clean the kennels and catteries,
and feed the animals.

Mr Wee claimed he has already invested more than $100,000 in the sanctuary,
which included having to build the place from scratch.

And the maintenance does not come cheap.

Mr Wee estimated that it costs $15,000 monthly to pay the three full-time
workers he has employed to look after the sanctuary, buy food for the animals,
as well as run the generator, the main source of electricity.

The generator is turned on only at certain hours of the day. At night, the
workers or volunteers depend on kerosene lamps and candles for light.

Water is taken from a well. Said Mr Wee, who stays over at the sanctuary only
on weekends: "I would love to spend more time here but I have a business to
run in Singapore.

"I think that moving here is a blessing in disguise after all. The animals
are happy, and that's what matters."


NOAH'S Ark Natural Animal Sanctuary used to be known as Noah's Ark Lodge on
its Seletar Farmway premises in Singapore for seven years.

After losing the tender to dog-breeder and handler Thierry Lim last year, Mr
Raymund Wee, the operator of Noah's Ark Lodge, was given three extensions by
the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) to move his animals.

The new site, a 4-ha piece of land in Pekan Nanas, Johor Baru, was offered by
a Singaporean businessman. Mr Wee pays a nominal rent of $500 a month.

Nanas is open to the public on Sundays from 11am to 5pm.
Visitors are welcome, but do call for an appointment beforehand.
For enquires on animal sponsorship at Nanas, please email to noahsarkcares@gmail.com

Source: The New Paper
Date: 6 March 2001