SINGAPORE: A 42-year-old man was apprehended by the National Parks Board (NParks) following a vehicle inspection at Woodlands Checkpoint conducted by Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officers on 10 January 2024.
The inspection revealed the presence of five puppies and three kittens concealed within the spare tyre compartment of the vehicle.
This incident marked the first animal smuggling case detected this year.
A joint statement from ICA and NParks disclosed that in 2023, Singapore’s borders witnessed over 30 cases of pet animal and wildlife smuggling.
NParks, in collaboration with partner agencies, successfully identified and dealt with these cases, which included a significant incident in March 2023 involving the illegal importation of 337 birds.
Two individuals involved in this case received high sentences, with one sentenced to 60 weeks’ imprisonment and the other to 72 weeks’ imprisonment on 14 August 2023.
Meanwhile, the proceedings against a third individual are still ongoing.
In another notable event in June 2023, six puppies and two kittens were discovered concealed in a modified fuel tank compartment, with the kittens hidden inside nylon bags.
The driver involved in this case was sentenced to 26 weeks’ imprisonment in September 2023.
Subsequently, in August 2023, a man attempting to smuggle 10 puppies and three kittens through Woodlands Checkpoint received a 40-week jail sentence in November 2023.
Further incidents unfolded in December 2023, with ICA officers at Singapore Cruise Centre detecting the illegal import of an Asian arowana and three axolotls on 14 December 2023.
These Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) listed species were imported without the required CITES permit.
Later, on 27 December 2023, ICA officers at Woodlands Checkpoint discovered five kittens hidden under the seats of a vehicle during an inspection, leading to the arrest of the 36-year-old driver by NParks.
Additionally, another individual was arrested in connection with the case.
On the same day, ICA officers also detected five puppies hidden in the boot of another vehicle at Woodlands Checkpoint.
The 20-year-old driver, along with two others, were subsequently arrested by NParks.
Ongoing investigations are being conducted for all cases in December.
The seized kittens and puppies are currently under the care of the Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS), a division of NParks, while the Asian arowana and axolotls are receiving care at NParks’ Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation.
NParks intensifies efforts against illegal wildlife trade with stringent enforcement measures
NParks is unwavering in its commitment to combat the smuggling and illegal trade of animals, and it is prepared to take decisive and necessary enforcement actions.
Illegal wildlife trade not only jeopardizes the survival of endangered species but also contributes to habitat destruction on a global scale.
NParks plays a crucial role in monitoring both physical and online marketplaces, taking swift and appropriate enforcement actions against perpetrators.
Over the past two years, NParks has conducted island-wide operations on more than 50 premises, resulting in the seizure of over 180 wildlife specimens.
These operations often target individuals advertising various wildlife species for sale on social media platforms such as Telegram, featuring exotic wildlife species that are prohibited in Singapore and several protected under CITES.
Notable cases highlight the severity of consequences for offenders.
For instance, in November 2023, a man was fined S$5,000 (US$3,730) for the taking and attempted sale of a Sunda pangolin.
In another case from 2020, a man was fined S$9,600 (US$7,160) for attempting to sell an endangered false gharial and keeping three hedgehogs illegally via Telegram.
Singapore enforces strict penalties for illegal wildlife trade and smuggling
Singapore’s legal framework includes stringent penalties for illegal activities under various acts.
The Animals and Birds Act imposes fines of up to S$10,000 (US$7,460), a jail term of up to 12 months, or both for first-time offenders caught importing animals or birds without a license.
The amended Wildlife Act regulates the illegal trade of wildlife, with penalties of up to S$50,000 (US$37,300) in fines, a maximum jail term of two years, or both.
The 2022 amendments to the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act increased penalties for illegal trade in CITES species, with a maximum imprisonment term of up to six years and fines of up to S$100,000 (US$74,600) per specimen.
Individuals with information on suspected poaching, smuggling, or the illegal trade of pet animals and wildlife are encouraged to report such activities to NParks through their website at www.avs.gov.sg/feedback or by calling the Animal Response Centre at 1800-476-1600.
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