SINGAPORE: Singapore animal welfare group ACRES and Lao Zoo have set up the first Wildlife Rescue and Education Centre in Vientiane, Laos.
ACRES, which stands for Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the ACRES Wildlife Rescue and Education Centre (AWREC) in Laos on Wednesday.
Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law, Mr K Shanmugam and Laos Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Dr Thongloun Sisoulith were present at the ceremony.
"I am delighted to have witnessed the MOU signing between the Lao Zoo and Singaporean charity ACRES," said Mr Shanmugam. "The Bear and Wildlife Protection Programme under the MOU is a timely initiative. Wildlife and environmental conservation is an increasingly important issue, so the joint effort is very encouraging."
Under the agreement, the five-hectare AWREC will provide sanctuary to animals rescued from the illegal wildlife trade, with a focus on rescuing bears.
ACRES said AWREC will also serve as an educational facility to create awareness on the wildlife trade, environmental protection and a host of animal protection issues.
It will have exhibits on a animal protection issues and conduct educational talks, skits and performances to create awareness and inspire the community to make a difference.
ACRES will also provide technical assistance to operate and manage the Lao Zoo and improve the welfare of animals in the zoo.
A Wildlife Crime and Rescue Hotline will be set up to help combat the illegal wildlife trade by allowing those who know of anyone who buys, owns or trades in protected species to report the matter.
ACRES and the Lao Zoo will work closely with the Wildlife Conservation Division of the Department of Forestry Conservation of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment for all project activities.
Executive Director of ACRES, Mr Louis Ng, said he's confident that the partnership will strengthen ties between Singapore and Laos and help curb the illegal wildlife trade.
He said ACRES will be hiring at least 24 Laotian members of staff to work with its Singapore team.
ACRES said Laos boasts one of the least disturbed ecosystems in Asia.
However, this biodiversity is under threat, as Laos is emerging as a source country in Asia's illicit wildlife trade.
ACRES said this trade is taking a heavy toll on its wildlife.
It said if left unchecked, current trends in the illegal trade will result in biodiversity and economic loss.
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