Singapore seizes illegal animal parts worth $8m
THE two large containers were supposed to hold nothing but tea leaves. But the bags inside hid 3,700kg of raw ivory tusks, 22 teeth believed to be from African big cats and four rhinoceros horns.
Acting on a tip-off, the Singapore authorities seized the entire illegal haul last week when it stopped off the island state en route from Kenya to Vietnam.
The animal parts were worth an estimated $8 million, Singapore Customs and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said in a joint statement yesterday. Investigations are ongoing.
The ivory, which consisted of 1,783 whole and cut tusks, was the second-largest seizure of ivory here since 2002.
That June, about 6,000kg of raw tusks and pieces were confiscated after they were found packed in six wooden crates labelled as "marble sculptures" bound for Japan.
The ivory was returned to Africa and a local shipper was fined $5,000 - the maximum penalty at the time - for preparing documents to facilitate the shipment.
While last week's haul had been seized en route to Vietnam, international wildlife trade monitoring group Traffic said the end-market was likely China, where ivory is known as "white gold" and seen as a status-defining luxury product.
Traffic South-east Asia's regional director Chris Shepherd said the seizure "shows that smugglers still think they can use Singapore as a transit point".
AVA said it will continue to work with enforcement agencies here and internationally to curb wildlife trafficking.
The international trade in ivory, rhinoceros horns and certain species of big cats' teeth are banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).
Under Singapore law, offenders can be fined up to $50,000 for each illegal wildlife specimen, up to a maximum of $500,000, jailed up to two years or both. The same penalties apply to any transhipment of Cites specimens through Singapore without proper Cites permits from the exporting and importing countries.
Anyone with information on the illegal wildlife trade can contact AVA on 6805-2992 or use the feedback form on AVA's website at www.ava.gov.sg. All information provided will be kept confidential.