2 Vietnamese men jailed for smuggling songbirds, animal cruelty

Channel NewsAsia 29 Dec 16;

SINGAPORE: Two Vietnamese were jailed six months each for smuggling 12 endangered songbirds into Singapore, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said on Thursday (Dec 29).

AVA said that the two men were also sentenced to four months' imprisonment for subjecting the birds to unnecessary pain or suffering. Both sentences have been backdated to Dec 15 and will run concurrently.

AVA said it was notified that the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) had found the birds in the luggage bags of the men, who had arrived on a flight from Vietnam to Singapore, on Dec 9.

The birds were concealed in white plastic containers measuring 21cm by 6.5cm by 6.5cm, and covered with personal belongings in two luggage bags.

The two men were detained and the birds and luggage bags were seized for AVA's investigation, the authority said.

AVA’s investigations identified the birds to be Chinese Hwamei, a protected species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The birds had been confined for about 12 hours in the plastic containers without food and water, and one did not survive, it added.

As part of the investigation, the remaining 11 birds were tested for avian influenza. One of the birds was found positive for antibodies against Influenza A virus (H3N8), meaning that the bird was exposed to the virus before its arrival in Singapore.

As a precautionary measure, the bird was euthanised and the remaining 10 birds are being monitored in quarantine for signs of diseases, AVA said.

The agency noted that animals that are smuggled into Singapore are of unknown health status and may introduce exotic diseases, into the country. AVA maintains Singapore's bird flu-free status through strict import regulations and enforcement, it added.

Under AVA regulations, ornamental birds can only be imported from countries that are free from bird flu, and must undergo a 21-day pre-export isolation in the country of export. The birds must be tested free from bird flu before import and checked again for clinical signs of diseases upon arrival in Singapore.

Importing animals or birds without an AVA permit carries a maximum penalty of S$10,000 and imprisonment of up to one year.

Offenders who bring in CITES-protected species, including their parts and products, without a CITES permits can be fined up to S$50,000 per scheduled species, to a maximum of S$500,000 and up to two years' jail.

If the animals or birds were subjected to unnecessary suffering or pain, offenders are subject to a maximum fine of S$10,000 and imprisonment of up to 12 months.

- CNA/mz

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