"I refer to the article, "Turtle soup? Banned species in pet shops" (July 23-24), and the letter, "The authorities need to clamp down on illegal wildlife trade" (July 25), by Mr Parameshvathy Sivalingam and Mr Pramod Madhavan Haridass. We thank them for their feedback.
The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) assures the public that it does not condone illegal wildlife trade. AVA requires all animals to be imported with a permit.
Animals protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) require a further Cites permit from AVA and a Cites export certificate from the country of origin.
In addition, AVA licenses pet shops for the retail sale of pet animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, chinchillas, red-eared sliders and several types of birds and fish.
AVA adopts a multi-prong approach to prevent illegal animal trade. These include routine inspection of pet shops and public education to raise awareness among traders and the public.
AVA also updates all traders on its regulations on trade in protected animal species such as the turtle.
We would like to clarify the recent enforcement actions taken against a supplier and three pet shops for selling Cites-protected turtles without Cites permits.
The turtles were of a species that had been included in the Cites protection list earlier this year.
They were listed under Cites Appendix II and III Ñ ie, they are not in immediate danger of extinction and may be imported or exported commercially if they have the proper Cites import permits. They also bear a close resemblance to the red-eared sliders, a permitted and non-protected species.
Given their similarity to the red-eared sliders and that they were only recently Cites listed, the supplier had inadvertently imported and distributed them to the pet shops. Upon realising its mistake, the supplier took immediate action to recall the remaining turtles from the pet shops.
Taking all these into consideration, AVA believed that the case was a genuine mistake and not an intentional offence. Nevertheless, AVA has issued a warning letter to the supplier and pet shops. We will also not hesitate to impose severe penalties if there is a repeat offence.
AVA understands and appreciates the writers' concern about illegal wildlife trade. We are reviewing the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act and will consider the revision of the provisions on penalties and enforcement powers.
The public can also play a part in stamping out illegal animal trade. Prior to acquiring a pet, the public should check on the reputation of pet shops and only patronise responsible pet shops.
The public should contact AVA at 6471 7198 or 6227 0670 if they come across any errant pet shops that trade in illegal animals.
Goh Shih Yong
Assistant Director Corporate Communications
For Chief Executive Officer
Agri-food & Veterinary Authority
Ministry of National Development