Animal welfare group calls for harsher punishment for man who illegally kept 32 animals

Ong Ming Shiang, 33, was fined $41,000 for having 32 wild and endangered animals in Toa Payoh flat. The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), an animal welfare group in Singapore, is calling for harsher punishment for Ong, to s
Ong Ming Shiang, 33, was fined $41,000 for having 32 wild and endangered animals in Toa Payoh flat. The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), an animal welfare group in Singapore, is calling for harsher punishment for Ong, to send a stronger deterrent message against wildlife smuggling. -- ST FILE PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), an animal welfare group in Singapore, is calling for harsher punishment for the man convicted of keeping illegal wildlife here, to send a stronger deterrent message against wildlife smuggling.

Ong Ming Shiang, 33, was convicted of contravening the Endangered Species (Import & Export) Act and the Wild Animals and Birds Act on Feb 6 and fined $41,000 for keeping 32 animals, some of which were endangered, in his flat in Toa Payoh North.

These include three rare ball pythons, two Indian star tortoises, a slow loris, three black- tailed prairie dogs, two sailfin dragons and five ornate horned frogs.

This is the largest seizure of illegal wildlife from a home in Singapore over the past 11 years.

The $41,000 fine is also the highest imposed on an individual for the possession of illegal wildlife, although those convicted of contravening the Endangered Species Act can face a maximum punishment of $500,000 fine and a two-year jail term, while those found guilty under the Wild Animals and Birds Act face a maximum fine of $1,000.

In a 12-page document sent by Acres to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) on Thursday, the authorities were urged to file an appeal against the sentence given to Ong.

This appeal, the document said, should be filed as the fine is low in comparison to earlier cases and is inadequate as a general deterrent.

"The reality is that the fine is less than 10 per cent of the maximum fine Ong was facing. (He) was also facing an imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years but was not given a custodial sentence," Acres said in the statement.

Its chief executive Louis Ng said: "We must send out a strong mssage that Singapore is committed and serious in combating this illegal trade and ensure that individuals involved in this trade are not only caught but given effective deterrent sentences."

The AVA said it has received Acres' letter and "will be looking into the request".