Sting operation nabs online sellers of illegal animals

Jose Hong Straits Times 8 Apr 12;

A couple were caught trying to sell an illegal ball python in a recent sting operation mounted by animal advocacy group Animals Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).

The man and woman had advertised online the sale of one ball python, describing it as 'super tame', a 'juvenile' and of a 'unique coloration'.

Acting on a tip-off, an Acres staff member posed as a prospective buyer and met the seller in Serangoon Central on March 30.

Under the Endangered Species Act, ball pythons are not allowed for sale in Singapore. Ball pythons are non-venomous snakes indigenous to Africa, and are known to roll themselves into the shape of a ball when threatened.

Mr Gerald Neo, executive manager of the AVA's wildlife section, said: 'Investigations are under way and a 20-year-old individual is assisting AVA.'

This comes after a 28-year-old man was caught on March 20 and subsequently fined $5,200 for keeping 13 hedgehogs, which he tried to sell online.

The ball python and 13 hedgehogs are now with Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Singapore is a signatory of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) international agreement.

It seized the largest number of illegal live animals and animal parts in 2004, with 59 cases. Last year, it made 20 seizures. All of these were shipped from overseas.

Under Singapore's Endangered Species Act, anyone caught importing, exporting, re-exporting or possessing any species scheduled in the Act without a permit can be fined up to $50,000 per species, with a cap of $500,000, and/or jailed for up to two years.

Trading in such animals causes many problems.

Mr Neo said: 'They may introduce and spread diseases to humans and domestic animals, and Singapore's biodiversity would be greatly affected if such exotic pets were released into the wild, as most of them are non-native.'

Also, unsuitable living conditions and a lack of knowledge in their proper care may compromise the animals' welfare.

AVA monitors online forums and will investigate any alleged sale of illegal wildlife online when alerted.

Anyone with reliable feedback on the sale of illegal wildlife can contact AVA on 6227-0670 or Acres on 9783-7782. All information shared will be kept confidential.