Exotic animals sold illegally as pets

Acres and AVA held joint sting operations this month and last month and seized animals such as this Asian leopard cat cub.
Acres and AVA held joint sting operations this month and last month and seized animals such as this Asian leopard cat cub.PHOTO: ACRES
Listings found online included ads for (from left) marmoset monkeys, a sugar glider, a ball python and a tiger cub. Out of 17 sellers Acres contacted at random, 14 confirmed that they were selling such animals.
Listings found online included ads for (above) marmoset monkeys, a sugar glider, a ball python and a tiger cub. Out of 17 sellers Acres contacted at random, 14 confirmed that they were selling such animals.PHOTO: ACRES
Acres and AVA held joint sting operations this month and last month and seized animals such as this Asian leopard cat cub.
Listings found online included ads for marmoset monkeys, (above) a sugar glider, a ball python and a tiger cub. Out of 17 sellers Acres contacted at random, 14 confirmed that they were selling such animals. PHOTO: ACRES
Acres and AVA held joint sting operations this month and last month and seized animals such as this Asian leopard cat cub.
Listings found online included ads for marmoset monkeys, a sugar glider, (above) a ball python and a tiger cub. Out of 17 sellers Acres contacted at random, 14 confirmed that they were selling such animals. PHOTO: ACRES
Acres and AVA held joint sting operations this month and last month and seized animals such as this Asian leopard cat cub.
Listings found online included ads for marmoset monkeys, a sugar glider, a ball python and (above) a tiger cub. Out of 17 sellers Acres contacted at random, 14 confirmed that they were selling such animals. PHOTO: ACRES

Acres finds a thriving market here, with over 150 ads for these animals placed on online platforms in six months

Exotic animals like tiger cubs and monkeys are being sold online as pets, an undercover investigation has found.

A six-month probe into the online illegal pet trade here by wildlife rescue group Acres (Animal Concerns Research and Education Society) found 156 listings for the sale of exotic animals as pets.

"You may think it may not be happening in Singapore. But our investigations show... there is a thriving market in Singapore," said Ms Noelle Seet, head of Acres' Animal Crime Investigation Unit, yesterday.

Acres monitored six online platforms between June and Dec 15. The platforms are Gumtree Singapore, Locanto Classifieds Singapore, ST701, Carousell, Adpost.com Classifieds (Singapore) and ChaosAds (Singapore).

A total of 100 ads were found on Gumtree, 33 on Locanto Classifieds Singapore, and 14 on ST701. Carousell had six such ads, Adpost.com had two and ChaosAds had one.

One post listed the sale of pygmy marmoset monkeys, touting them to be tamed and "well socialised with kids and other pets".

Out of 17 sellers contacted by Acres randomly, 14 confirmed that they were selling such animals. The other three did not respond.

In addition, following tip-offs, Acres also held joint sting operations this month and last month with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), where animals such as sugar gliders - small squirrel-like mammals - and an Asian leopard cat were seized.

Investigations found that the animals were often smuggled into Singapore by air or via the Johor-Singapore causeways.

Acres has thus proposed to the AVA to have wildlife sniffer dogs at causeway checkpoints and Changi Airport terminals to curtail the smuggling of live animals. It made a similar proposition in 2011.

Acres is also working with SPH Online Classifieds, which runs ST701, and Carousell to tighten their controls on illegal pet ads. Both ST701 and Carousell have said they will step up vigilance to stop wildlife trading via online platforms.The other four online platforms have yet to comment, said Acres.

Its investigation unit has received 27 reports about online sale listings of exotic animals since it was started in March this year.

It is illegal to keep, trap or kill wild animals here without a licence. Those found guilty under the Wild Animals and Birds Act face a maximum fine of $1,000 per animal.

Those found guilty of smuggling endangered species and their parts and products can be fined up to $50,000 per specimen - up to a total of $500,000 - and/or jailed up to two years under the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act.

In October, two Russians were given 15 months' jail for smuggling 206 turtles estimated to be worth $90,000 through Singapore.

Anyone with information on the sale of illegal wildlife as pets can contact Acres on 9783-7782 or acrescrime@gmail.com

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2015, with the headline 'Exotic animals sold illegally as pets'. Print Edition | Subscribe