Singaporean authorities have made its second-largest seizure of illegal ivory in 13 years.
After receiving a tip-off, the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), helped by Singapore Customs and the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority of Singapore, seized 3.7 tonnes of illegal ivory, along with four pieces of rhinoceros horns, and 22 pieces of teeth believed to be from African big cats.
The Vietnam-bound shipment, which was declared as tea leaves, was shipped in two 20-foot containers from Kenya, and was transiting through Singapore when it was seized.
Upon inspecting the two containers, the AVA uncovered 1,783 pieces of raw ivory tusks hidden among bags of tea dust. The authorities also found the rhinoceros horns and cats’ teeth.
The haul, estimated to be worth SGD8 million (USD6 million), has been seized by AVA for further investigation.
In June 2002, the AVA seized a shipment of about six tonnes of raw ivory tusks and cut ivory pieces transiting through Singapore from Africa. The shipment of 532 raw ivory tusks and 40,810 ivory pieces were packed in six wooden crates labelled as ‘marble sculptures’, and was estimated to be worth approximately SGD1.5 million. Following AVA’s investigations, a local shipper was prosecuted and fined SGD5,000 for preparing the documents which facilitated the shipment. This was the maximum fine under the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act then. The illegal ivory was repatriated to Africa for further investigations.
Singapore is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which classifies elephants, rhinoceros, and big cats as endangered species. International trade in ivory, rhinoceros horns, and the teeth of certain species of big cats are banned under the convention.
Under Singapore’s Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act, a CITES permit is required for any import, export, or re-export of CITES wildlife and their parts and products.
The maximum penalty for the illegal wildlife trade is a fine of SGD50,000 per scheduled specimen (not exceeding an aggregate of SGD500,000) and/or imprisonment of up to two years. The same penalties apply to any transhipment of CITES specimens through Singapore without proper CITES permits from the exporting or importing country.