SINGAPORE - A 34-year-old man was fined $12,800 on Wednesday (Aug 1) for illegally importing and keeping tarantulas in his home.
Tam Jiaming was going through Tuas Checkpoint in a car on Jan 4 when he was directed to undergo checks and questioned by an Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officer. He denied that he had anything to declare.
But upon inspection, the ICA officer found six live tarantulas, kept individually in containers, in a sling bag placed on the rear passenger seat.
Tam's case was then referred to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), which conducted follow-up checks at Tam's residence. They found and seized an additional 92 tarantulas.
Tarantulas are not approved as pets in Singapore. Some of the tarantulas that Tam kept are species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites). Singapore has been a member of Cites since 1986.
The tarantulas have since been placed under the care of Wildlife Reserves Singapore.
In a joint statement on Wednesday, AVA and ICA said: "Our borders are our first line of defence in safeguarding Singapore's safety and security. The security checks are critical to our nation's security. "
They also reminded the public that the keeping and trading of illegal wildlife and wildlife parts and products are punishable offences liable to a fine of up to $1,000 and the forfeiture of the wildlife.
Those convicted of importation, possession or sale of any Cites-protected species without Cites permits can be fined up to $50,000 per Cites-listed animal, not exceeding a maximum of $500,000, or sentenced to two years' imprisonment, or both.
If the animals in question are subjected to unnecessary suffering or pain, the offender may also be liable to a maximum fine of $10,000 or a year in jail, or both.
The statement added: "Demand for such animals would fuel illegal wildlife trade, which severely impacts the wild populations of numerous species. Wildlife are not suitable pets as some may transmit zoonotic diseases to humans and pose a public safety risk if mishandled or if they escape into our dense urban environment. Non-native animals may also be a threat to our biodiversity if released into the environment."
Members of the public can alert AVA via its online feedback form (https://csp.ava.gov.sg/feedback) or call the agency on 6805 2992 about any suspected cases of illegal wildlife trade, and provide information. Information shared will be kept strictly confidential, said AVA.