Prioritising Animal Welfare Through Education

Singapore Green Guardians had the privilege of having an insightful conversation with Anbarasi (Anbu) Boopal, co-CEO (Advocacy) of ACRES: Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Singapore). In this interview, Anbu shared her deeply personal journey, offering valuable insights into her unwavering passion for animal welfare and conservation.

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Prioritising Animal Welfare Through Education: A Conversation with Anbarasi (Anbu) Boopal

Singapore Green Guardians had the privilege of having an insightful conversation with Anbarasi (Anbu) Boopal, co-CEO (Advocacy) of ACRES: Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Singapore). In this interview, Anbu shared her personal journey, offering valuable insights into her unwavering passion for animal welfare and conservation. She delved into the challenges faced by ACRES in advocating for animal welfare in Singapore, highlighting the pivotal role of education in driving meaningful behavioural change.

Photo: Ellie Cheong, Singapore Green Guardians (left), Anbarasi (Anbu) Boopal, ACRES (right)

SGG: How did it all start for you, Anbu? What inspired you to become involved in animal welfare and conservation, and how did you come to join ACRES?

Anbu: Animal welfare has always been close to my heart. I initially wanted to become a veterinarian but couldn’t bear the thought of dissecting animals, so I shifted my focus to life sciences. While immersed in wildlife work in India, I noticed a significant oversight in conservation efforts, particularly towards certain animal species. It sparked my interest in understanding policy and governance, prompting me to study environmental management.

It was then when I encountered an illegally kept Indian star tortoise. And that’s how I came to know about ACRES. The organisation’s co-founder, Louis Ng, mentioned plans for a rescue centre, and I offered to volunteer. It was initially a two-year commitment, then I would return to India. I’ve now been with ACRES for 18 years.

Photo: ACRES

SGG: Time flies when you’re enjoying your work, doesn’t it?

Anbu: Yes, it does. Our lives revolve around animals, yet we often fail to recognise the many roles they play. Whether they are animals that are sources of food and clothing or serve as modes of transportation, our lives are deeply intertwined with theirs. Moreover, animals and their natural habitats are profoundly impacted by the choices that we make in our daily lives. I firmly believe that there is immense potential in the actions that humans can take. And that individuals can make a difference. That’s what I’m passionate about.

Photo: ACRES, Facebook, 2023

SGG: Speaking of work, could you elaborate on some recent initiatives and projects that ACRES has been working on?

Anbu: Absolutely. ACRES has been busy with several key projects lately. Our six focus areas are:

  1. Tackling Wildlife Crime
  2. Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation
  3. Promoting Coexistence With Native Wildlife
  4. Humane Education
  5. Community Outreach
  6. Promoting Cruelty-Free Living

Firstly, we’re focused on educating the public about the humane treatment of animals. This includes teaching people about responsible practices without needing constant oversight. We’ve expanded our efforts, aiming to reach a wider audience, including pre-schoolers, students, and adults.

We’ve also been tackling the problem of online wildlife trade. We’ve published reports highlighting the challenges of enforcement due to the high volume and encryption of online transactions. We’re pushing for policies to hold online platforms accountable for their role in this trade.

Photo: Online Illegal Wildlife Trade on Telegram in Singapore Report, ACRES, November 2023

📝 Read the telegram report here.

On the ground, we’re running a 24-hour rescue service and expanding our sanctuary to provide better living conditions for rescued animals. We’re also working to return illegally trafficked Indian star tortoises back to their natural habitats.

In our efforts toward wildlife rescue, we’re also advocating for the regulation of harmful glue traps used for rodent control. We’ve observed a concerning trend where we’re rescuing a protected species from these traps every single day.

Photo: ACRES, Facebook, 2023

SGG: What are some of the biggest challenges you face in advocating for animal welfare in Singapore?

Anbu: Two main challenges stand out. Firstly, there’s a need for a shift in mindset towards animals. We often exhibit speciesism, valuing certain animals over others based on factors like size or charisma. For example, we may feel strongly about the trade of dog meat. But, when animals in factory farms like chickens and pigs, who are sentient or intelligent, are treated in a bad way, we may not acknowledge it because we disconnect ourselves. This mindset change is crucial for fostering compassion and tolerance towards all animals. Secondly, on the same note, perception has an impact on funding and that remains a challenge. ACRES relies heavily on public donations, and while we’re grateful for the support, more funding is needed to sustain our operations effectively. We constantly strive to bridge this gap through strategic planning and community engagement.

Photo: ACRES

SGG: Education seems to be a cornerstone of ACRES’ approach. Could you tell us more about your educational initiatives and their outcomes?

Anbu: Certainly. Our educational programs are tailored to different age groups, from pre-schoolers to adults. For younger children, we focus on fostering empathy towards animals and encouraging responsible behaviour. As they grow older, we delve deeper into topics like coexistence and advocacy, empowering them to become voices for change. We also conduct workshops for students and adults, teaching them how to engage with policymakers and advocate for animal welfare effectively. Our goal is to equip people with the knowledge and skills to make a positive impact in their communities.

Photo: ACRES

SGG: It’s inspiring to see how ACRES empowers people to advocate for animal welfare. How can the public contribute and actively support your initiatives?

Anbu: There are various ways for the public to get involved, from volunteering to donating. We offer volunteering opportunities in areas like outreach, wildlife rescue, and sanctuary care. Each program has specific requirements, such as public speaking skills or being comfortable working outdoors. Additionally, donations play a crucial role in supporting our work. Whether it’s through volunteering time or contributing financially, every bit of support helps us continue our mission of protecting animals and their habitats.

Photo: ACRES, Facebook, 2022

ğŸ”Ž Discover how you can get involved and make a difference by volunteering. Find out more here.

SGG: Thank you for sharing your insights, Anbu. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we wrap up?

Anbu: We have an upcoming fundraising event, the ACRES Charity Gala: Wild Second Chances, scheduled to take place at Marina Bay Sands on May 18, 2024, generously supported by Marina Bay Sands. The proceeds from this event will be directed towards expanding ACRES’ sanctuary for rehabilitated wild animals and facilitating the repatriation of rescued non-native wild animals to their native habitats.

Photo: ACRES, 2024, via giving.sg

🐒 For more details about the Gala or how you can donate, click here.

About ACRES

ACRES, Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Singapore), founded in 2001 by passionate Singaporeans, is a leading charity dedicated to animal welfare in Singapore. ACRES has tirelessly advocated for wildlife protection–– symbolised by the iconic blue logo representing its first rescued vervet monkey. Since its inception, ACRES has rescued countless animals and remains committed to providing hope and sanctuary to those in distress.

To support ACRES’ vital work, individuals can get involved by reporting suspicious activities or assisting in rescue and rehabilitation efforts. Whether through volunteering, raising awareness, or supporting advocacy campaigns, every contribution makes a meaningful impact.

If you see wildlife in distress in Singapore, contact 24-hr ACRES Wildlife Rescue Hotline +65 97837782 for assistance. 

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