Sunday, 30 July 2000

Noah's Ark sets up home in Johor

By Yeoh En-Lai, The Straits Times

The once-sunken Ark has resurfaced, only this time in Malaysia. Today is the
deadline for Noah's Ark Lodge operator Raymund Wee to vacate the former
premises at Seletar West Farmway 5. He has spent the past few weeks moving the
animals to his new sanctuary in Pekan Nanas, Johor. YEOH EN-LAI finds out that
it was not all plain sailing in the move.

   AFTER three extensions and a much-publicised row with the Agri-food and
Veterinary Authority of Singapore, Noah's Ark Lodge operator Raymund Wee is
hoisting anchor.

   After seven years, he has moved his Noah's Ark Lodge and more than 300
animals across the Causeway.

   The renamed Noah's Ark Natural Animal Sanctuary is less than half an hour's
drive from the Tuas checkpoint.

   Now, its former Seletar Farmway premises, once home to more than 500 dogs and
cats and other animals, has fewer than 30 dogs.

   The dogs left behind will be placed under the care of the Agri-food and
Veterinary Authority (AVA), as instructed by their owners who had had Mr Wee
look after them before.

   Each dog will have a microchip inserted under the skin, so that the AVA can
keep track of the animals.

   When The Sunday Times visited the old Ark last week, the Noah's Ark Lodge
sign had been dumped by the side of the entrance and replaced by a "Closed"

   The pond at the far end of the lodge had been drained. Empty pet cages were
stacked up and many potted plants had been removed, along with several
structures and support beams.

   Apart from the dogs, there were several doves there that were going to be
given away.

   "I have removed some of the structures I had built over the past seven years
as I am a caring person and I do not want anything to happen to Mr Thierry Lim
and the AVA when they come to this place," Mr Wee said.

   The AVA said it had given Mr Wee ample time to move the animals and find a
new home.

   Mr Chin Yen Neng, AVA's head of Infrastructure Management, said: "We gave him
three months, then another two one-month extensions, and after that, another
two weeks.

   "We have an obligation to the new tenant, Mr Thierry Lim.

   "We gave Mr Wee the additional time because we wanted minimal disruption to
the animals," he said.

   Mr Wee still contends that the initial three months should not be included in
the notice period, because the site was still being tendered out then.

   "I was confident of winning the bid in April. With this shelter, I helped to
answer the problem of strays, and I had invested so much here," said Mr Wee.

   "I built this place with love," he added.

   But there's no love lost between Mr Wee and the AVA.

   Mr Wee's battle to keep Noah's Ark Lodge at Seletar was very public. And not
always polite.

   His campaign included bombarding the Government with petitions of support and
attempting to discredit Mr Lim via his website.

   Still, he lost.

   Then came the mad scramble to relocate the animals. Some were too sick to be
moved quickly.

   The animals could only be transported to Malaysia at night because it was too
hot to do this in the daytime.

   The AVA will inspect the premises tomorrow morning. In a letter to the AVA,
which was obtained by The Sunday Times, Mr Wee said: "During the past 10 weeks
I had to find an alternative piece of land to relocate, clear and prepare a
piece of wild land, and build up a shelter for the animals.

   "Even if this were to be done in Singapore, it would take a minor miracle to
put all these together in such a short time."

   When asked what his fondest memory of the Seletar premises was, he said: "The
fight to keep this place. But now, we'll make a fresh start."

   TENANCY: End of extension

   IN 1987, the land at Seletar West Farmway 5 where Noah's Ark Lodge is sited
was tendered out to corporate trainer Harry Quek to run a dog-breeding and
kennelling business.

   Six years ago, 51-year-old Raymund Wee sublet it from Mr Quek and started
Noah's Ark Lodge. * Last December, Mr Quek told the Primary Production
Department (now the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority) that he did not want
to renew his tenancy.

   Mr Wee asked to be allowed to continue there.

   But the AVA turned him down, because Mr Quek was not allowed to sublet, under
the tenancy agreement.  In January, a public tender was announced.  Three
months later, AVA's head, Dr Ngiam Tong Tau, announced that dog-breeder and
handler Thierry Lim would take over the site.

   He had outbid Mr Wee by $12,101 per annum.  Mr Wee was given until May 15 to
quit but got two extensions of a month each until July 15.  Sometime last
month, a Singapore businessman offered him a 10-ha plot of land in Pekan
Nanas, Johor, which his family had used as a vacation home.  The AVA said Mr
Wee was granted a total of 22 export permits from July 7 to move the animals
over to Johor, but he said some of the forms were inadequately filled and he
was nearly turned back at the border.  On July 15, he got another two-week
extension. This ends today.

Source: The Straits Times
Date: 30 July 2000

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