Undercover investigations in the illegal trade in tiger parts in Singapore

Acres Press Release 19 Mar 10;

SINGAPORE, 19 March 2010 – A 3-month undercover investigation by ACRES (Animal Concerns Research and Education Society) has revealed that 59 out of 134 jewellery and antique shops visited in Singapore offered alleged tiger parts for sale. Evidence of the 59 shops selling alleged tiger parts was recorded on video.

Approximately 159 alleged tiger claws, 303 alleged tiger teeth and 38 pieces of alleged tiger skin were found on sale during the investigation, which was conducted from December 2009 until February 2010. Tiger parts are used for various purposes such as traditional medicine, jewellery, lucky charms and novelties.

Singapore has previously been recognised as playing a role in the trade of tiger products from neighbouring countries such as Indonesia, for both domestic trade and international re-exports.1

Although all commercial tiger trade has been banned since 1987 by CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), which Singapore is a party to, there has been an approximate 50% decrease in wild tiger populations since the ban.

Less than a century ago, more than 100,000 tigers roamed the world’s jungles and forests. Today, less than 3,200 remain in the wild. Three subspecies of tiger have become extinct within the last 50 years and, despite the inclusion of Asian big cat species in Appendix I of CITES, the illegal trade in specimens of nearly all these species has escalated and further threatens their long-term survival in the wild.

Singapore joined CITES in 1986 and ratified the Convention in 1987. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority is the CITES authority in Singapore. AVA administers the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act (ESA), which lists all CITES species in its Schedules. Under the ESA, it is an offence to import, export and re-export any CITES species without a permit from AVA. The possession, sale, offering or exposing or advertising for sale or displaying to the public of any illegally imported CITES specimen is also an offence. The penalties, on conviction, are a fine of $50,000 (per species), not exceeding an aggregate of $500,000 and/or 2 years imprisonment.

Under the Endangered Species (Import and Export) (Prohibition of Sale) Notification, the domestic sale of tiger specimens is prohibited. Any person who sells, offers or exposes for sale or displays to the public any tiger parts and products, commits an offence. The offender shall be liable to a fine not exceeding $10,000 for each species (but not to exceed in the aggregate $100,000) or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 1 year or to both.

“It is important to note that anyone who advertises for sale any tiger parts contravenes the above Act, even if the products turn out to be not authentic. By making a claim that the product is from tigers, the dealer is potentially driving up the demand for tiger parts, which directly contravenes the spirit of CITES and the local legislation meant to enforce CITES” said Ms. Anbarasi Boopal, Director of ACRES Wildlife Crime Unit.

Key findings of the investigation include:

  • The demand for tiger parts and the amount of tiger parts being stocked by the shops appeared to be higher over the Chinese New Year period in this year of the tiger, as reported by a shopkeeper.
  • 28 shopkeepers mentioned that an order for more tiger parts could be placed with them, and the delivery time ranged from one week to three months or more.
  • 7 shopkeepers recognised that tigers are protected animals, that it is illegal to sell tiger parts, and that tiger parts are customs-controlled items.
  • The alleged tiger parts were claimed to originate from Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, China, Myanmar, Indonesia, Lao and Cambodia.
“The investigation findings showed the presence of an illegal trade in alleged tiger parts in Singapore and that there is an immediate need for continued serious efforts to curb this illegal trade. The investigation findings and footage have been submitted to the AVA and we look forward to working closely with the AVA” said Mr. Louis Ng, Executive Director of ACRES.

“As long as there is demand, there will be supply. Legislation alone is insufficient to bring a complete halt to the illegal trading of endangered species and their parts. We must do more public education and awareness so demands for them can be curbed and supply will then terminate” said Dr. Lim Wee Kiak, Member of Parliament for Sembawang GRC.

Contact:
Louis Ng (ACRES Executive Director)
Email: louis@acres.org.sg Hp: +65 9796 8592


- ends -

Notes to editors
  • Photographs and video footage of the investigation are available on request.
  • In 2003, ACRES, in collaboration with The New Paper, conducted undercover investigations into the illegal trade in tiger parts in Singapore. The investigations revealed that alleged tiger parts, including tiger bones, tiger paws and tiger penises, were on sale at Traditional Chinese Medicine stores in Chinatown.
  • Between 2008 and 2009, ACRES received 3 tip-offs regarding the sale of alleged tiger parts in Singapore. ACRES investigations confirmed alleged tiger parts being sold as lucky charms in all three cases. Enforcement action by the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority followed.
  • ACRES is a local animal protection charity and Institution of Public Character aimed at fostering respect and compassion for all animals. It currently has more than 18,000 individuals on its supporter database.


1. Chris R. Shepherd and Nolan Magnus, 2004. Nowhere to hide: The trade in Sumatran tiger. A TRAFFIC South-east Asia report.


Year of the Tiger fuels demand for tiger parts
Sia Ling Xin, My Paper AsiaOne 19 Mar 10;

THE Year of the Tiger seems to have driven up demand for tiger parts - even though trading in them is illegal here.

People think that they make an apt gift this year, and the dwindling tiger population has led to a rise in their value, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) shops said.

The parts most in demand: the penis, believed to be an aphrodisiac; and the bones, believed to cure rheumatism.

Posing as a potential buyer, my paper spoke to eight TCM shops in Chinatown, five of which had received more enquiries for tiger parts this year. The rest did not get any queries.

Of the five, two shops said that they usually get an enquiry every two or three months, but, since January, they have received two queries each month.

The other three reported a doubling in the number of enquiries, from a couple each month to four or five.

The enquiries are made by both Singaporean and foreign men and women, who are usually middle-aged.

Only one shop admitted to dabbling in tiger parts. The rest denied doing so.

That store's shopkeeper said that although he gets a few enquiries every month, only two or three deals a year are closed because he does not keep any stock.

He susses the market out when customers request certain parts, he said. year, so he advises those who want to get their hands on the parts urgently to look elsewhere first, he said.

The client has to pay a deposit.

The shop will give an estimated price, but the client may have to pay more, depending on the season and middlemen, he said.

A tiger's penis is priced at about $25 per liang, a traditional unit of measurement equivalent to 37.5g. Typically, the organ costs about $450, he said.

The shop also gets requests for eyeballs, believed to cure convulsions; and paws and pelts for decorative purposes, he said.

Paws are rare, as they are usually damaged by poachers' snares, so a perfect pair can cost "more than a thousand", he said.

TCM physician Kwek Mei Lin, who has never used tiger parts in her treatments, said that while it is believed that tiger parts can cure ailments, many herbs are much better alternatives, as they are effective, easily available and cheaper.



Singapore jewellers selling tiger parts - report
Reuters Alertnet 19 Mar 10;

SINGAPORE, March 19 (Reuters) - Some jewellery shops in Singapore are illegally selling tiger parts, helping fuel the disappearance of the big cat from Asia, a local animal protection group said on Friday. A three-month investigation by Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) found that 59 out of 134 jewellery and antique shops it visited in the Southeast Asian city-state were allegedly selling tiger parts, including claws, teeth and pieces of skin.

All commercial tiger trade has been banned by the international CITES convention that Singapore has signed, and under domestic law the sale of tiger specimens is prohibited, even if the products turn out not to be real, ACRES said. Shopkeepers told ACRES that demand had been higher over Lunar New Year -- the start of the Year of the Tiger -- and more orders could be placed for parts that could take from a week to three months to be delivered.

The parts came from Southeast Asia, China and South Asia, they said.

Tiger parts are used to make jewellery and Chinese medicine.

Tigers in the Greater Mekong region face extinction, conservationists say. Global tiger populations are at an all-time low of 3,200, down from about 100,000 a century ago, as forest habitats disappear and the animals are killed for their body parts, used in traditional Chinese medicine. [ID:nSGE60P06P]

Asian countries are a hotspot for the illegal wildlife trade, which the international police organisation Interpol estimates may be worth more than $20 billion a year.

"As long as there is demand, there will be supply," said Singapore member of parliament Lim Wee Kiak. "Legislation alone is insufficient to bring a complete halt to the illegal trading." (Reporting by Neil Chatterjee; Editing by Sugita Katyal)

Tiger parts sold openly as jewellery
Some unaware of ban and penalties; AVA seizes 320 items from 30 shops
Grace Chua, Straits Times 20 Mar 10;

JEWELLERS and antique dealers here are openly selling jewellery and amulets made from tiger claws, skin and teeth, an animal welfare group said yesterday.

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), which investigated 134 jewellery or antique shops between December and last month, found 59 selling body parts of the highly endangered big cat.

And of the 59, only seven knew of the ban on trade in tiger ornaments; they produced the objects from under the counter, or from a safe, in front of undercover Acres investigators.

One shopkeeper advised: 'When you take it out of Singapore, just say it is a talisman. Don't say it is a tiger part.'

Another admitted to having 'just stocked up' for the Chinese New Year because of hotter demand for the items this Tiger year.

These retailers either do not know or are ignoring the heavy penalties that come with selling, advertising or buying the parts of such an endangered animal.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) subsequently checked 161 retail outlets, including Acres' 134, and seized 320 items from 30 shops.

It was the biggest seizure of alleged tiger parts here to date, in terms of quantity netted.

The AVA is now examining the items for authenticity.

Selling tiger parts is banned. All six tiger species are protected under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).

Singapore ratified the Cites convention in 1987.

Under the Endangered Species (Import & Export) Act, importing, exporting, re-exporting or possessing any Cites species without a permit can land one a fine of up to $50,000 per species, with a cap of $500,000, and/or two years in jail.

And here is the rub: Even if the parts are fakes, the same penalties apply.

This is because trading even in fakes drives up the demand for tiger parts, said Acres executive director Louis Ng.

In Asia and some parts of the world, amulets or ornaments made of tiger claws, teeth and skin are carried or worn for protection. Tiger skin, for instance, may be inscribed with prayers and rolled up in glass capsules. Some people believe that wearing such 'lucky charms' gives them power and authority.

The demand for tiger parts for ornaments and traditional medicine, coupled with tigers' loss of habitat, have caused wild tiger populations to plummet worldwide.

By some estimates, only 3,400 to 5,140 tigers were left in the wild in 2008, down from 5,000 to 7,000 in 1999.

Animal conservationists deem this critical, and yet, the continuing demand for tiger parts is fuelling its supply.

Shopkeepers told Acres that they sourced the tiger parts mainly from Thailand, India and China.

The prices for these charms ranged from $3 for a tiger tooth, to $350 for a piece of skin, to $4,800 for a tiger claw set in gold.

Given the rising demand and shrinking supply, these prices can only go up.

Acres' investigation targeted clusters of jewellery shops and antique dealers in Little India, Chinatown, Geylang and Bugis.

The actual size of the market for tiger parts is unknown, since their sale is not limited to jewellery and antique shops, said Mr Ng.

AVA spokesman Goh Shih Yong said the agency has an ongoing programme to check shops for the sale of illegal Cites species and to educate traders and members of the public.

He said: 'We must acknowledge Acres for being our eyes and ears on the ground.'

The number of people nabbed for selling alleged tiger parts has been on the rise. There was one case in 2007 and another in 2008, but four last year.

All turned out to be fakes made of materials like horns or hooves and the sellers were fined between $100 and $500.

Those with information about shops selling tiger parts and other endangered species may call the AVA hotline on 6227-0670 or Acres' hotline, 9783-7782.

Smuggled tiger parts sold as jewellery in Singapore
Wang Eng Eng Channel NewsAsia 19 Mar 10;

SINGAPORE - Tiger parts that have been smuggled into Singapore are being openly sold as jewellery and amulets in the retail capital of Southeast Asia, an animal welfare group said Friday.

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) said it conducted an investigation of more than 130 jewellery and antique shops and found just under half offered products made from tiger parts like claws, teeth and fur.

Of the 59 shops selling such items, 52 were openly displaying the items for sale, the group said at a news conference.

The shops investigated were located in various places, such as Chinatown, Little India and Bugis.

Shopkeepers offered ACRES activists posing as buyers hundreds of items purportedly from tigers but the group said it could not verify whether all of them were authentic.

"Whether it's real or it's fake, it's actually driving up the demand for tiger parts in this region," said Louis Ng, the executive director of ACRES.

The products included claws set in gold or silver and worn as jewellery, amulets made of teeth with a piece of prayer paper rolled into them, and cuts of skin said to have been blessed for protection or strength.

A claw set in gold costs between S$20 and S$5,000.

The sale of tiger parts is illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), of which Singapore is a signatory.

Fewer than 3,200 tigers remain in the wild, down from an estimated 100,000 a century ago, and that number is still declining, ACRES said in a statement.

Butchered for traditional medicine, deprived of their habitat and killed for encroaching on villages, the onslaught has already seen three sub-species wiped out and the South China tiger has not been sighted for decades.

Video evidence from the investigation, which was conducted from December 2009 to February, showed one shopkeeper offering a piece of "blessed" tiger skin that he said came from Songkhla in Thailand.

Another shopkeeper was caught on camera offering a necklace made from a tooth that he said came from Thailand, while a third said he had to stock up on tiger parts due to the pick-up in demand during the Lunar New Year.

Shopkeepers named Thailand, China and India as their main sources.

Mr Ng said Singapore played a key role in the illegal trade. "It's critical especially for Singapore because all our neighbouring countries have tiger populations. We don't want to be driving up the demand for these products at this time when they are so critically endangered," he added.

Singapore is the shopping capital of Southeast Asia and welcomed 9.7 million tourists in 2009.

Asked for its comments, Singapore's Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said it carried out its own checks on 161 shops this year, including the 134 ACRES visited. Its investigations found some of the tiger parts to be fake.

However, 26 shops did violate the Endangered Species Act and were fined between S$500 and S$3,000. Under the Act, those caught selling tiger parts can be fined up to S$10,000 and/or jailed for up to one year, even if the parts are fake.

ACRES is calling for stiffer sentences. Mr Ng said: "It's time we hand out deterrent sentences, whether the product is real or fake. Under our law, it's illegal to advertise for the product. Even if it's fake, they are driving up the demand for these products."

ACRES had earlier uncovered the use of illegal tiger parts in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

- AFP/CNA/ir

Are tiger parts being sold openly here?
AVA acts on animal protection group's findings
Neo Chai Chin, Today Online 20 Mar 10;

SINGAPORE - Want to buy a pendant with a tiger's claw?

Apparently, it is not that difficult to get your hands on one here - either real or fake - despite a commercial trade ban since 1987.

The illegal sale of alleged tiger parts like claws, teeth and skin for aesthetic purposes appears fairly widespread here, probes by a wildlife protection group have revealed.

Of the 134 jewellery and antique shops surveyed by the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) between December last year and February this year, 59 offered alleged tiger parts for sale.

Of these, 52 openly displayed the tiger parts, and 49 claimed their goods were the real thing. Shopkeepers claimed the goods originated from places like Thailand, Sri Lanka, China and Myanmar.

Tiger claws and teeth are set in gold pendants, and pieces of skin are used as amulets in the belief that they could ward off evil.

Releasing these findings on Friday, Acres' wildlife crime unit director Anbarasi Boopal said: "It was shocking for us to see so many of these products on sale."

The Singapore Jewellers Association lists over 300 members and there are hundreds of antique shops in Singapore.

The shops Acres surveyed are clustered in Ang Mo Kio, Bugis, Chinatown, Geylang, Lavender and Little India.

The group had to trawl the shops opportunistically - checking out all antique or jewellery outlets along Serangoon Road, for instance - as there was no way of determining how many shops sold tiger parts, said Acres executive director Louis Ng.

The Agri-food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has since acted on Acres' findings and confiscated some goods from the shops. It has also done checks on 27 other shops not covered by Acres.

A total of 320 pieces of alleged tiger parts from 30 shops have been seized, said AVA spokesman Goh Shih Yong.

While it is now determining if the parts are authentic, some appear to be carved from horns or hoofs of domestic animals like cattle and goats, Mr Goh said. Meanwhile, it has fined 26 of the shops sums of between $500 to $3,000.

Since 1987, Singapore has been a party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), which aims to protect endangered wildlife species.

The commercial trade of all six tiger species is banned.

Anyone who sells or displays to the public alleged tiger parts and products can, for each species, be fined up to $10,000, jailed up to a year, or both.

"Whether real or fake, it's driving up demand for tiger parts," said Mr Ng.

Fewer than 3,200 tigers remain in the wild, down from an estimated 100,000 a century ago, and that number is still declining.

To increase chances of nabbing those who bring tiger parts into Singapore, Mr Ng suggested having wildlife detector dogs at checkpoints.

Those with information on illegal wildlife trade may call AVA on 6227-0670, or Acres on 9783-7782. Neo Chai Chin

Smuggled tiger parts sold as jewellery in Singapore
Idayu Suparto Yahoo News 19 Mar 10;

SINGAPORE (AFP) – Tiger parts that have been smuggled into Singapore are being openly sold as jewellery and amulets in the retail capital of Southeast Asia, an animal welfare group said Friday.

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) said it conducted an investigation of more than 130 jewellery and antique shops and found just under half offered products made from tiger parts like claws, teeth and fur.

Of the 59 shops selling such items, 52 were openly displaying the items for sale, the group said at a news conference.

Shopkeepers offered ACRES activists posing as buyers hundreds of items purportedly from tigers but the group said it could not verify whether all of them were authentic.

"Whether it's real or it's fake, it's actually driving up the demand for tiger parts in this region," said Louis Ng, the executive director of ACRES.

The products included claws set in gold or silver and worn as jewellery, amulets made of teeth with a piece of prayer paper rolled into them, and cuts of skin said to have been blessed for protection or strength.

Fewer than 3,200 tigers remain in the wild, down from an estimated 100,000 a century ago, and that number is still declining, ACRES said in a statement.

Butchered for traditional medicine, deprived of their habitat and killed for encroaching on villages, the onslaught has already seen three sub-species wiped out and the South China tiger has not been sighted for decades.

Video evidence from the investigation, which was conducted from December 2009 to February, showed one shopkeeper offering a piece of "blessed" tiger skin that he said came from Songkhla in Thailand.

Another shopkeeper was caught on camera offering a necklace made from a tooth that he said came from Thailand, while a third said he had to stock up on tiger parts due to the pick-up in demand during the lunar new year.

Shopkeepers named Thailand, China and India as their main sources.

Ng said Singapore played a key role in the illegal trade.

"It's critical especially for Singapore because all our neighbouring countries have tiger populations. We don't want to be driving up the demand for these products at this time when they are so critically endangered," he added.

Singapore is the shopping capital of Southeast Asia and welcomed 9.7 million tourists in 2009.

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