It's a colourful and spectacular place, well worth a visit.
It might seem, however, an odd subject for a naturalist's blog. Certainly when Eileen and I visited it with her cousins Chris and Susan Chang, on January 15, 2015, I was expecting a purely cultural attraction. I was not aware (though perhaps I should have been) that a central feature of Kek Lok Si is a large, murky green pond crammed full of turtles.
Unfortunately, that same rise in prices has made temples like this one a target for thieves. In 1998, 250 "tortoises" (which may have been freshwater turtles, as these are what fills the pond today) were stolen from Kek Lok Si itself.
Southern River Terrapins turn entirely jet black on their heads, necks, legs and sometimes their whole bodies. Their irises change from yellowish to pure white.
Should the turtles at Kek Lok Si be there? There is certainly a case that the desire to release a turtle into a temple pond, though noble in conception, may actually act against turtle conservation by creating a demand for turtles to be taken from their natural habitats to supply the demand for animals to set free - if release into an overcrowded, cement-lined pond can be so described. Fortunately there are better options in Malaysia, particularly Dr. Chan Eng Heng's long-term river terrapin conservation project on the other side of the Peninsula in Terangganu. I hope to visit it one day; in the meantime, though, the turtles at Kek Lok Si, though hardly in natural surroundings, will have to do.