Smugglers caught at immigration checkpoint with birds stuffed into toothpaste boxes

The seized birds. -- PHOTO: AVA SINGAPORE
The seized birds. -- PHOTO: AVA SINGAPORE
One of the hedgehogs seized. -- PHOTO: AVA SINGAPORE
One of the hedgehogs seized. -- PHOTO: AVA SINGAPORE

Three people were caught smuggling popular songbirds into Singapore and one was nabbed trying to hawk wildlife illegally, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said on Tuesday.

In September, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority caught the smugglers trying to sneak six oriental white-eyes, or mata puteh, into the country, hidden in toothpaste boxes.

Earlier in June, the AVA acted on a tip-off to seize two hedgehogs and two sugar gliders - small squirrel-like mammals - from a person who was selling them online.

They were charged and sentenced on November 26. The smugglers were fined $6,000 each while the wildlife seller was given the maximum fine of $1,000 per animal or bird.

In Singapore, it is illegal to trap, keep or kill wild animals under the Wild Animals and Birds Act without a licence. Offenders have to hand the animals over and may be fined up to $1,000 per creature.

To guard against bird flu, ornamental birds imported into Singapore must be tested and quarantined. Under the Animals and Birds Act, it is an offence to import live animals or birds without an AVA permit; the offence carries a maximum penalty of $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year.