Skeletons in the Island

By isak, May 15, 2009

Wherever there are people, there is animal cruelty and abuse. And in the picturesque fishing village of Pulua Katem in Malaysia, things are no different. Quietly, the streets are emptied of stray dogs. They are rounded up and transported to a nearby uninhabited island, perhaps with the thought that the dogs could fend for themselves off the existing wildlife. But that is not happening. Instead they are dying a slow death by starvation. They have turned to eating the carcasses of the dead dogs to survive. Some have tried to swim off the island only to be chased back. And some have died on the swim… they drowned trying to save their own lives.

To follow is an account from a Malaysian website chronicling a recent visit to survey the depth of the situation. If you can help financially, please help. There is info at the end of this post. If you cannot help financially, please send this info to others you know… let’s get the word out about this dire situation. Time is of the essence.

reprinted from website

Pulau Ketam Dog Rescue Mission -1Pulau Ketam, 2nd May 2009: Letting Slip. The picturesque fishing village of Pulau Ketam is your typical Chinese village. There are rustic coffee shops, temples with exotic carvings and noisy mahjong sessions. Unlike other Chinese villages, stray dogs are conspicuously missing from this popular tourist destination. This is a picture-story of their dark little secret.

Pulau Ketam Dog Rescue Mission - 02Earmarked For Deportation. The villagers have been rounding up all the dogs on the island and shipping them to a deserted island. But it is no ordinary island. It is an inhabitable mangrove island with an environment so harsh that every castaway faces a horrible death. Efforts are being made to stop the deportation of more stray dogs from the adjacent village of Sg Lima.

But what about the dogs already deported?

I met up with the village head and was shocked hear that they did not even consider how the unfortunate dogs would survive. As far as they are concerned, they transferred the stray problem to another island and they need not worry about it after that. I pleaded with him to take me to the the island where they dumped the dogs. Surprisingly, he relented. No rescue attempt was previously made and I intend to do so.

Pulau Ketam Dog Rescue Mission - 03On Dire Straits. Friends Daniel Tang and Sabrina Yeap of Furry Friends Farm accompanied me on this reconnaissance trip to “Dog Island”, off the Straits Of Malacca. Blogger Birds Talking (from Klang) who followed me on the earlier negotiation trip was unable to follow due to some sudden illness. We chartered a boat and as we approached the island, I was thinking we will only get to see bones and carcasses. Poisonous snakes abound on the water clogged island and the hostile island will eat any ill-prepared intruder alive. The bountiful mud and sand will swallow you when you walk on it as I was to find out late.

Pulau Ketam Dog Rescue Mission - 04First Sighting. This was the first glimmer of hope.
Notice how scrawny it is. Yet he managed to wag his tail feebly upon seeing us.

Pulau Ketam Dog Rescue Mission -06Heartbreak. The sad face of this abandoned puppy sitting on a branch is heartbreaking and makes me and Sabrina all the more determined to go get every single remaining dog out from there.

Pulau Ketam Dog Rescue Mission -07Man-Made Tragedy. According to local fishermen, the starving animals resorted to cannibalism. They ate the carcasses of the fellow castaways who didn’t survive. They were so desperate that they swam to nearby kelongs only to be chased away. Many weaker ones died in the water. We enlisted the help of a couple of Indonesian workers from a nearby kelong. They will also try to feed and trap the remaining dogs where possible. I am still formulating a proper method of delivering food to selected spots on this treacherous island. I hope to be able to engage a local mangrove expert to enter the interior of the island to estimate the number of remaining survivors and to identify the places to land. Because the island is relatively remote, the rescue mission is a logistical nightmare.

Pulau Ketam Dog Rescue Mission -09Dog’s Eye View. As Sabrina clasped her hands in prayers, I too ended up needing some prayers. I was being sucked into hungry quicksand after getting off the boat to take this picture through the mangrove plants. After some struggling, I escaped with some cuts and bruises from the mangrove roots. My slight injuries are nothing compared to the unimaginable conditions and ordeal the dogs have to go through daily. The incident also serves to remind me of the difficult and dangerous mission ahead.

Pulau Ketam Dog Rescue Mission -08One Lucky Terrier. Our Indonesian helper managed to grab this dog after a nasty show-down.


Pulau Ketam Dog Rescue Mission -10Saved and Safe. The rescued dog in the safe hands of Sabrina and on the way to a vet for treatment.


But time is running out and there might be only skeletons and carcasses left to collect on our next trip.

Boat hire is expensive there. It is a tourist area and it has already cost me a few hundred ringgit for boat hire alone, so far. The rescued dogs cannot be transported on the regular ferries. Almost nobody will lift a finger to help without a fee. This is understandable.

The locals are already shaking their heads in disbelief that there are outsiders who want to save the animals they so casually discarded. Instead of pointing fingers and antagonising them, we need their co-operation to help save the unfortunate creatures. In the process, we also hope to educate the islanders on better treatment of animals. It would be an impossible mission if we didn’t win their hearts.

If you are unable to help directly, please help by forwarding this appeal to other compassionate folks who you feel might be able to make some monetary contributions. Apart from boat hire, we need money to buy cages, to pay people to help catch them, to hire land transport to send the rescued animals to veterinary clinics, pay for vet fees, send the recovered ones to the shelter and to feed and house them for life. I can go on!

  • To contribute or help, e-mail TV Smith at or Sabrina Yeap at or
  • Send contributions to Furry Friends Farm CIMB 1457-000-1182-05-6 (Current Account)
    *For online interbank transfer, if it prompts for Recipient ID/Business Reg: Just type in 5766
  • Contributors from abroad (and Malaysia) can also send by PayPal to
    Please retain transaction record / slip for verification and audit purposes.
  • The Rescue Mission Secretariat at +6012 378 3730 (Janet) or +6012 320 8090 (Zalina)
    The Sec’s E-mail is (see updates page for info)

Fellow bloggers, you can also help by embedding this appeal poster on your blog and linking to //
Pulau Ketam Dog Rescue Mission Poster

You can follow the progress of the rescue via the updates here.

We are aware it is a monumental task and appreciate all forms of support, assistance, suggestions, encouragement and your prayers.

Thank you.

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