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Tue 26 Jul 2005

Endangered species in pet shops

Category : news

"Pet shops selling at-risk species." By Arlina Arshad. The Straits Times, 23 Jul 2005. Five varieties of endangered turtle openly sold.

"Some pet shops in Singapore are openly selling endangered animals, despite knowing it is illegal.

This month, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) raided 20 pet shops and found six selling turtles protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites). In all, 33 turtles were seized.

The cases are still being investigated, said the AVA's senior wildlife enforcement officer Bobby Lee. The turtles have been given to the Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum in the Chinese Garden in Jurong.

AVA was acting on a survey by activist group Animal Concerns Research Education Society (Acres), which visited 100 pet shops last month and this, and found 20 selling endangered species.

Armed with a videocam, Acres staff posed as customers to find out if the shops sold endangered turtles, where they got them and how much they sold them for.

They found that 20 shops were openly selling five species: Chinese softshell turtle, Chinese stripe-necked turtle, pig-nosed turtle, Australian snake-necked turtle and another unknown species of turtle.

Depending on size and species, the turtles were sold between $2.50 and $80 each. They are believed to have come from Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan.

The law states that anyone caught importing or exporting animals that fall under the Endangered Species Act without a Cites permit can be fined up to $5,000 per species and jailed for up to one year. Anyone caught displaying the animals without an AVA permit also faces a fine of up to $5,000.

Acres executive director Louis Ng yesterday called for stricter enforcement laws and greater penalties to deter the pet shops from repeating the offence. Mr Ng said fines should be pegged to the number of animals imported and sold, not just number of species.

Mr Lee did point out, though, that certain turtle species retrieved from the shops had only been listed under Cites in January. It is possible, therefore, that they were imported before they became illegal.

'The petshop owners may not be well informed of the differences between the species and had accepted lookalike species,' he said. 'In addition, it is sometimes not easy to tell the species apart when the baby turtles are no bigger than a 50-cent coin.'

In response, Mr Ng said the turtles permitted for sale here have a 'red marking that is apparent'.

'But the illegal ones don't. Also, how did the turtles which are brought in by the hundreds make it through the checkpoints in the first place? There must be some reinforcement there,' he added.

On Mr Ng's call for stricter laws, the AVA said it is reviewing the current act and will consider updating the provisions on penalties to maintain an effective deterrent.

What the law says

The law states that anyone caught importing or exporting animals that fall under the Endangered Species Act without a Cites permit can be fined up to $5,000 per species and jailed for up to one year.

And anyone caught displaying the animals without a permit issued by the AVA also faces a fine of up to $5,000.

The 33 turtles seized from the six pet shops may be commercially traded if the shop owners have proper Cites permits, the AVA clarified.

This means that these animals can be imported into Singapore for re-export but may not be sold in the pet shops.

Only dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, mice, chinchillas, red-eared sliders, fancy birds and fish are allowed to be sold in pet shops.

Copyright 2005 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

Posted at 8:55AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email | Raffles Museum news