Man fined S$2,600 for releasing stingrays into reservoir

VALERIE KOH Today Online 27 Sep 17;

SINGAPORE — An unemployed man charged last week in Singapore’s first court case involving stingray abandonment was fined S$2,600 on Tuesday (Sept 26).

Larry Tan Chin Guan, 48, was caught after he filmed himself releasing three pet Motoro stingrays into Lower Seletar Reservoir and uploaded the video on Facebook. Two individuals reported the clip, which Tan posted on the SG Tiger Fish and Aquatic Livestock page on Facebook, to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and national water agency PUB.

Following up on the complaints, PUB called Tan in for an interview to assist with investigations.

He was charged last Wednesday under the Animals and Birds Act for abandoning the stingrays – an alien freshwater species with venomous stings that are native to South America – at about 3pm to 4pm on June 2 without reasonable cause or excuse. On Tuesday, Tan was charged with releasing the stingrays into the reservoir without prior written approval from PUB. He was fined S$2,000 for the first charge and S$600 for the second.

Tan’s decision to release the creatures was irresponsible and unwise, as the reservoir was “certainly not a natural habitat” for stingrays in captivity, said District Judge Kenneth Choo.

Tan had bought four Motoro stingrays about a year ago from an aquarium in Yishun, where he lives.

The species are popular in the aquarium trade and can be sold legally here.

One of the stingrays died several weeks later and in May, Tan decided to give them up to make space for five newly-bought Black Diamond stingrays.

He placed the Motoro stingrays in a bag with a portable air pump and drove five minutes to a carpark near Orchid Country Club, then walked to the reservoir and released the stingrays.

PUB prosecutor Khong Pui Pui told the court that the release of captive stingrays harmed both the animals and the aquatic ecosystem. “These animals may not survive and those few that are able to do so disrupt the ecological balance of the natural habitats by competing with the native species for resources,” she said.

The animals also pose a risk to people who use the water bodies.

After the incident, PUB advised the People’s Association and Sport Singapore to urge those partaking in water activities to don appropriate footwear and avoid standing or walking in the shallow area of the reservoir. Its contractors were also told to immediately report sightings of the stingrays to PUB staff, and to avoid touching the creatures with their hands during the removal of aquatic plants.

The stingrays have yet to be caught, Ms Khong told reporters after the hearing.

Tan, who did not have a lawyer, said he did not know it was a crime to release animals into the reservoir. “If not, I would not have done it in the day time,” he said. “I could have sold them away but I did not want other people to use the stingrays to make a profit. That’s why I chose to release them back into nature.”

Motoro stingrays, likely released by hobbyists, have been spotted in local reservoirs since at least 2006. Between 2007 and 2008, researchers trying to ascertain the species’ status in Upper Seletar Reservoir caught five specimens including two pregnant females. It was the first alien record of a South American freshwater stingray outside the tropical region of Central and South America.

The PUB told TODAY that since 2009, about 30 Motoro stingrays have been sighted and caught at different reservoirs — Lower Seletar, Upper Seletar, Lower Peirce and MacRitchie — during ecological studies by the agency and the National University of Singapore. As they are non-native species, the specimens caught are taken back for further research and are not released back into the reservoirs.

Non-native species may upset the food chain and introduced fish may compete with native species for food and habitat, or become predators of native species, said PUB. They may even spread diseases.

According to research published in 2009 by academics Ng Heok Hee and Tan Heok Hui, however, Singapore’s reservoirs are almost wholly populated by alien species.

Motoro stingrays are also imported. The AVA told TODAY about 550 of them were imported last year, a steep drop from about 1,700 imported in 2015 but more than the 100 imported in 2014. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SIAU MING EN


Man fined S$2,600 for releasing venomous stingrays into Lower Seletar Reservoir
Vanessa Paige Chelvan Channel NewsAsia 26 Sep 17;

SINGAPORE: An unemployed man was fined S$2,600 on Tuesday (Sep 26) for abandoning his pet stingrays by releasing them into Lower Seletar Reservoir.

District Judge Kenneth Choo criticised Larry Tan Chin Guan’s “irresponsible and unwise” decision to release the poisonous rays into the reservoir, putting the public at risk. The stingrays have not been sighted since Tan released them on Jun 2 in the afternoon.

In court on Tuesday, the 48-year-old Tan said he did not know what he did was not allowed, “otherwise I wouldn’t have done it in the daytime,” he said.

This is believed to be the first case involving the release of stingrays into the wild.

Tan pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of pet abandonment under the Animals and Birds Act and one count of releasing the rays into the reservoir, an offence under the Public Utilities (Reservoirs, Catchment Areas and Waterway) Regulations.

At least three people reported Tan to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and the Public Utilities Board (PUB) after coming across a video Tan had posted on a Facebook page for fish and aquatic enthusiasts.

The video showed Tan releasing the stingrays into the reservoir.

According to court documents, Tan had decided to abandon the Motoro stingrays to make room for five new Black Diamond stingrays he had bought. Tan said he thought it was better to “let (the rays) back into nature” than to sell them.

AVA prosecutor Yap Teck Chuan sought a S$2,000 fine, while PUB prosecutor Khong Pui Pui sought a fine of at least S$500.

The release of animals bred in captivity harms the animal as well as the acquiatic ecosystem, Ms Khong said.

The prosecutor added the PUB has advised all participants in water activities to put on appropriate footwear and not to stand or walk in the shallow areas of the reservoir.

Man fined $2,600 for releasing 3 venomous stingrays into reservoir
Shaffiq Idris Alkhatib Straits Times 26 Sep 17;

SINGAPORE - An unemployed man has been fined $2,600 after releasing three venomous motoro stingrays into Lower Seletar Reservoir on June 2, an act that could upset the ecological balance of natural habitats and pose safety risks to users.

The Straits Times understands that the stingrays are yet to be caught, which have prompted the authorities to issue advisories to those performing work and taking part in water sports activities in the reservoir.

Larry Tan Chin Guan, 48, pleaded guilty in court on Tuesday (Sept 26) to abandoning his pets into the reservoir without a reasonable cause or excuse.

He also admitted that he had released them into a body of water in a catchment area park without prior written approval from an authorised officer.

Tan was the first offender to be hauled to court for abandoning stingrays, according to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).

AVA prosecutor Yap Teck Chuan said Tan bought four motoro stingrays from an aquarium in Yishun about a year ago but one of them died weeks after the purchase.

He bought five black diamond stingrays this May and decided to release the three surviving motoro stingrays into Lower Seletar Reservoir. Court papers did not mention the price he paid for all the animals.

Between 3pm and 4pm on June 2, Tan placed the three motoro stingrays into a bag with a portable air pump, drove for five minutes to a car park near Orchid Country Club and walked to the reservoir. He then released them into the water.

Tan also shot a video of the stingrays being freed into the reservoir, which he uploaded onto the SG Tiger Fish and Aquatic Livestock page on Facebook.

A netizen who viewed the clip alerted the PUB communications department at around 1am the next day.

On Tuesday, Ms Khong Pui Pui, who is the PUB prosecutor, said the national water agency managed to track down Tan and contacted him for an interview at its office on June 8.

She told the court that the release of such animals, that have been bred and kept in captivity, into the reservoirs harms the aquatic ecosystem.

She added: "These animals may not survive and those few that are able to do so disrupt the ecological balance of the natural habitats by competing with the native species for resources. The release of non-native species into the waters may also pose a risk to users of public water bodies."

Ms Khong said that since the incident, PUB has reminded all contractor workers not to catch or touch the stingrays with their hands when removing aquatic plants.

Reservoir staff have been told to be alert and surveillance has been stepped up at the reservoir and fishing areas to look out for offenders releasing fishes into the water.

"The PUB reservoir management team had to advise the People's Association and the Singapore Sports Council that their water activity users are to put on appropriate footwear and not to stand and walk in the reservoir shallow area," said Ms Khong.

In a joint media release with PUB, AVA reminded the public that it is irresponsible and cruel to abandon pets.

The release also stated: "Pet owners who are unable to look after their pet anymore should find a suitable home for their pet. Anglers can also call PUB if they catch any stingrays when fishing at the reservoirs instead of releasing them back into the (water)."

Tan, who was unrepresented, told the court that he was unaware that the release of animals into the reservoir is forbidden.

The AVA had earlier told ST that motoro rays are allowed to be sold in aquariums as pets.

According to a 2010 ST report, the freshwater rays are native to South American rivers and can grow to the size of dinner plates.

They had been found previously in Upper Seletar Reservoir and likely had been released by hobbyists.

The rays can deliver venomous stings that cause extreme pain and even death.

First-time offenders convicted of abandoning animals can be jailed for up to a year and fined up to $10,000.

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