Man fined S$18,000 for smuggling over 300 singing birds

Alvina Soh Channel NewsAsia 16 Jan 12;

SINGAPORE: A site engineer was fined S$18,000 on Monday after smuggling in more than 300 singing birds from Malaysia, three-quarters of which died as a result of their confinement.

Winston Boo Kiang Cheng, 38, was found guilty of three counts of contravening the Animals and Birds Act, after he brought in the birds without a licence by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and causing them unnecessary suffering.

Boo committed the offences on 1 November last year, a day after he purchased the birds for RM558 (S$229) from a pet shop in Malaysia.

The court heard that he wanted to bring the birds into Singapore for "religious purposes."

The birds were found hidden in the boot and beneath the rear passenger seat of his car during a check at Woodlands Checkpoint at 10.40pm on that day.

Boo used a piece of black cloth to conceal the birds which included 253 Spotted Munia birds, 48 Oriental White Eye birds, and 1 Shama bird.

All 302 birds were packed into eleven cages, toilet roll cardboards, a pipe and two plastic trays.

AVA officers said the birds were confined in cramped and restrictive conditions.

The authorities also noted that a few of the birds were "clinging onto the top of the cages" and appeared to be weak and dying slowly.

The birds had also not been given food and water during their seven-hour journey from Johor to Singapore.

227 birds died within two days of their arrival in Singapore.

AVA Prosecutor Officer Mr Yap Teck Chuan said that Boo had "total disregard for the welfare of the birds" after transporting them "in a very unpleasant manner."

Mr Yap added that Boo was aware that importing the birds was prohibited, but still went on to purchase them as they were "cheaper."

AVA's conditions for the importation of pet birds require that ornamental birds only be imported from bird flu-free countries and have negative test results for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza.

The birds also have to be quarantined at a government approved quarantine premises for 21 days prior to their export to Singapore.

If these rules are not complied with, the AVA will detain the birds for further tests, return the birds to the country of origin or destroy them if necessary.

- CNA/ck

Engineer who smuggled birds from JB fined $18,000
Khushwant Singh Straits Times 17 Jan 12;

A MAN smuggled 302 birds into the country in such dismal conditions that more than two-thirds of them died. He was fined a total of $18,000 yesterday.

Site engineer Winston Boo Kiang Cheng smuggled the ornamental birds - which are prized by collectors - into Singapore in his car, after buying them from a pet shop in Johor Baru.

He was fined $8,000 for bringing them in without a licence issued by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), $5,000 for causing the birds unnecessary suffering by confining them in tiny containers, and a further $5,000 for not providing them with food and water.

A district court heard that Boo, 38, drove into Johor Baru on Oct 31 last year with his friend Koh Kwang Hu. After dinner, he left his companion at the restaurant, saying he was going to get his car washed. He then visited a nearby pet shop to order 300 birds. Delivery was planned for the following night.

Boo asked Mr Koh, 40, to go to Johor with him again the next day, saying he wanted to fill his car with petrol there.

While the pair were having dinner at the same restaurant, the pet shop owner approached Boo.

The engineer paid RM558 (S$230) for the birds - 253 spotted munia, 48 oriental white-eye songbirds and one rumped sharma.

They had been stuffed into small trays and cages, a narrow plastic pipe and two cardboard toilet-paper rolls.

The cages were discovered covered with black cloth in the boot of Boo's car during a routine search at the Woodlands Checkpoint. More birds were found hidden under the rear passenger seat.

The case was then referred to the AVA, and its officers observed that there was no food or water for the birds.

Several of the oriental white-eye songbirds were dying, while many of the munia birds were in very bad shape. By Nov 4, 227 of the birds had died.

Boo admitted to AVA officers that he had smuggled the birds from Malaysia because they were cheaper there.

Songbird hatchlings go for about $10 to $20 each at pet shops here.

AVA prosecutor Yap Teck Chuan told the court that ornamental birds can be imported only from countries that are free of bird flu. Even then, the birds must be tested for the disease and quarantined for three weeks.

Malaysia has been designated free of bird flu, but Mr Yap said that wild birds are often caught and traded as ornamental or pet birds. These could originate from anywhere, and importing them without any testing or health certification poses a significant health risk, he explained.

He also said that Singapore was one of the few countries in the region to have kept bird flu at bay, and that strict import and quarantine regulations and enforcement are required to maintain this status quo.

For smuggling in the birds and causing them unnecessary pain and suffering, Boo could have been fined up to $10,000, jailed for up to a year, or both, for each offence.