Big difference in penalties for wildlife offences

I am heartened to hear of the efforts by the Government to tackle the illegal wildlife trade (Singapore adopts three-pronged approach to deal with wildlife trafficking; ST Online, Feb 28).

Efforts by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and Immigration and Checkpoints Authority should also be lauded. Without it, cases of illegal wildlife smuggling would go unnoticed.

To this end, I have noticed a disparity in the laws regarding animals in Singapore.

Under the Wild Animals and Birds Act, keeping, trapping or killing wild animals here without a licence results in only a $1,000 fine.

On the other hand, similar offences under the Parks and Trees Act could incur a fine of up to $50,000, jail term of up to six months, or both.

While I understand that each Act has its own purpose and addresses specific issues, the disparity in punishment is still glaring.

Members of the public may not understand the law or understand that acts like releasing pets into the wild or trapping birds are offences.

Education and awareness are key.

I hope the AVA will take a bottom-up approach in educating the public and enhance cooperation with nature groups and the National Parks Board.

More needs to be done to raise awareness about Singapore's sensitive wildlife, the laws protecting them and the repercussions of the public's detrimental actions.

Chiok Wen Xuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2018, with the headline 'Big difference in penalties for wildlife offences'. Print Edition | Subscribe