Animal smugglers go to great lengths to avoid detection, causing harm to creatures

The pig-tailed macaque (above) that was found in a cage at a Hougang car workshop. -- ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN 
The pig-tailed macaque (above) that was found in a cage at a Hougang car workshop. -- ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN 
The pig-tailed macaque (left) and common palm civet (top) were found in cages at a Hougang car workshop. They were seized and taken to the Singapore Zoo after a tip-off from local wildlife rescue group Acres. ST PHOTOS: AZIZ HUSSIN

SINGAPORE - A pig-tailed macaque and common palm civet being kept illegally at a car workshop were seized by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) on Wednesday. Both animals were found in two small cages at the back of the Hougang workshop.

When The Straits Times visited SMC Auto Engineering Works in Defu Lane 9 during the AVA raid, the macaque was swinging around the cage and had a thick metal chain around its neck.

The civet, which is a nocturnal creature native to Singapore and usually found in trees and high places, was curled up motionless in a corner. Its cage was littered with scraps of food, including apple and pork slices, with flies buzzing around it.

The animals were likely secured through the illegal wildlife trade, which animal groups say is thriving here, given Singapore's status as a global port.

The Straits Times looks at the lengths that animal smugglers go to illegally bring in such animals.

Puppies hidden under car seat


A Malaysian assistant pub manager, Mohamad Ashwin Nazri, 25, was jailed for eight months in April 2015 for trying to smuggle in seven puppies into Singapore and for ill-treating them.

The two Japanese Spitz, two golden retrievers and three poodles were likely to have been sedated to prevent them from moving and making any noise when they were being transported here from Johor on March 30.

No food or water was provided for the puppies, which were later found on the floorboard under the seat. Two died and four had to be put down after contracting an infectious disease.

Twelve birds stuffed in PVC tubes

A Singaporean man smuggled 12 birds from Vietnam by hiding them in PVC tubes with perforated holes. He was jailed for three months in April 2015.

Herman Rahmat, 38, who was unemployed, brought in nine white-rumped shama, two red-whiskered bulbul and a magpie robin without a licence in 2014.

All the birds were found alive, but eight of them died within three days from cranial trauma with accompanying haemorrhage, swelling and dehydration.

Hedgehog in shoebox; gecko in plastic container


A taxi passenger was caught trying to smuggle two hedgehogs and a gecko into Singapore at Woodlands Checkpoint in February this year.

Officers from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) found the hedgehogs in a shoebox and the gecko in a small plastic container in the 26-year-old man's zippered pouch. He was fined $1,500 and the three creatures were taken to the Singapore Zoo.

Puppies bagged in cloth bags


Former dog breeder Sharon Tan Mei Hua, 33, smuggled 13 puppies from Malaysia in her car via Woodlands checkpoint. She was jailed for four months in November 2014.

The 13 sedated puppies, including three Japanese spitzs, two pomeranians, a Siberian husky and five poodles, were found on Sept 9. They were alive and found hidden in cloth bags under the front seats and the glove compartment of her Nissan car. They were then taken to an AVA facility for quarantine.

Exotic and endangered animals found in Toa Payoh flat


In the biggest seizure of illegal wildlife from a home in 11 years, Ong Ming Shiang, 33, was fined in February 2014 a total of $41,000 under the Endangered Species (Import & Export) Act and the Wild Animals and Birds Act.

He had 32 animals, some of them endangered, in his Housing Board flat in Toa Payoh North. They included three rare ball pythons, two Indian star tortoises, a slow loris, three black- tailed prairie dogs, two sailfin dragons and five ornate horned frogs.

It is the highest fine imposed on an individual for the possession of illegal wildlife here. The 32 animals were then taken to the Singapore Zoo.

Indonesia: Birds stuffed in plastic drinking bottles


A 37-year-old man was stopped by Indonesian police on Monday for smuggling in 24 birds stuffed in plastic bottles, including 21 critically endangered yellow-crested cockatoos.

The birds in their plastic prisons were found by Indonesian police at the Port of Tanjung Perak in Surabaya, Indonesia. They were then cut free and given medical attention. They have since been sent to Indonesia's natural resources conservation office, which deals with wildlife-trafficking cases.

The birds can fetch about $1,300 each, and were to be smuggled out of Indonesia to be sold on the black market. If found guilty of smuggling, the man who was from near Surabaya could face up to five years in prison

Australia: Bird eggs hidden in passenger's crotch

In May 2014, a 39-year-old Czech man was caught by customs officials at Sydney airport for having 16 wild-bird eggs in the crotch of his pants. The man arrived on a flight from Dubai when customs officials examined his baggage.

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