SINGAPORE - An air shipment of illegal ivory and pangolin scales, worth an estimated $1.3 million, was intercepted and seized by the authorities last Saturday (Dec 12) at the Changi Airfreight Centre.
In a joint release on Thursday (Dec 17), the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and Singapore Customs said they had been working closely to detect and intercept shipments of illegal wildlife and wildlife products smuggled through Singapore.
The 0.8 tonne shipment originated from Lagos, Nigeria and was on its way to Vientiane, Laos via Singapore. The shipment was labelled "complete wigs of synthetic textile materials".
But when Singapore Customs and AVA officers inspected it, they found 255 pieces of raw elephant tusks weighing about 505kg, and pangolin scales weighing about 324kg.
The shipment was seized, marking the fifth largest seizure of illegal ivory by the Singapore authorities since 2002. A freight forwarding company in connection with the shipment is assisting AVA with the investigations.
"We have zero tolerance on the use of Singapore as a conduit to smuggle endangered species, their parts and products," said Mr Chua Teck Hui, head of Singapore Customs' Air Checkpoints Branch, Singapore Customs.
"We will continue to collaborate with other national and international enforcement agencies to curb wildlife trafficking," he added.
Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), to which Singapore is a signatory, elephants and pangolins are endangered species. International trade in ivory and pangolin scales is prohibited without Cites permits.
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.
Those involved in the illegal wildlife trade face a fine of up to $50,000 per specimen and up to a total of $500,000, up to two years in jail, or both.
This also applies to any transit or transhipment of Cites specimens through Singapore without proper Cites permits from the exporting or importing country.
"The logistics industry plays a vital role in protecting the endangered species and tackling the illegal wildlife trade. AVA would like to remind all shipping, transport, logistics and freight forwarding companies to be prudent and exercise caution when accepting shipping and freight assignments to ensure that their companies are not implicated in wildlife trafficking," said Ms Lye Fong Keng, deputy director of the AVA's Quarantine & Inspection Group (Wildlife Section).
The latest case comes after one in May, when the Singapore authorities made their second largest seizure of illegal ivory since 2002, finding 3.7 tonnes of illegal ivory hidden among bags of tea dust. The shipment, declared as tea leaves, was travelling from Kenya to Vietnam via Singapore.
It included 1,783 pieces of raw ivory tusks as well as four pieces of rhinoceros horns and 22 pieces of canine teeth believed to be from African big cats. The total haul was estimated at $8 million.
Anyone with information on the illegal wildlife trade can contact AVA on 6805 2992 or provide information through the online feedback form on AVA's website, www.ava.gov.sg.