‘Old fellas’ at temple in good hands


  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Lunch is served: Chan He feeding the over 500 tortoises at Kek Lok Si Temple in Ayer Itam, Penang. — KT GOH/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: It’s eat, sleep, and plenty of sunshine for these “old fellas”.

Life seems good for the tortoises at the Kek Lok Si Temple, most of which are at least 70 years old.

Residing in a pond at the beautifully-landscaped Oriental Garden, the days are more peaceful now for the more than 500 tortoises as the temple is closed during the conditional movement control order (MCO) period.

Kek Lok Si Temple monk Venerable Chan He said the oldest tortoise there was over a 100 years old.

“We have several species of reptiles here including the red-eared slider turtles, the Chinese Pond tortoises and the Golden Coin turtles.

“We used to allow people to release tortoises at the pond but now, we have stopped that practice as the pond is overpopulated with the reptiles,” he said.

For Buddhists, releasing animals is a traditional practice and seen as a gesture of compassion and repentance for one’s sins.

Chan He said that before the MCO, people who visited the temple would feed the tortoises with kangkung, potato leaf and bread crust.

“However, we advise visitors against feeding the reptiles with oily food as they are not good for their health,” he said.

“Since our temple is closed now, we have to feed them twice a day with about 50kg of kangkung.

“Tortoises are easy to rear as they are omnivores and eat practically all kinds of food,” he added.

Temple helper Loh Kok Boon, 62, said he would clean the pond once a week.

“Usually, we would get thousands of visitors during the public holidays. It’s rare that the temple is so quiet during the festive period,” he said.

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