S'pore, Chinese government agencies given UN award for seizure of elephant ivory

Elephant tusks, pangolin scales and rhino horns on display at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve Visitor Centre Gallery on Nov 12, 2021. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A 7.8kg elephant ivory ornament in an air shipment from France to Singapore did not escape the detection of the authorities in China, where the cargo was in transit.

The shipment was later intercepted here by a team comprising officers from local government agencies as part of a joint operation between both countries.

For their efforts, the National Parks Board (NParks), the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), Singapore Customs, and Anti-Smuggling Bureau of General Administration of China Customs have been presented the United Nations 2021 Asia Environmental Enforcement Award in the Collaboration category, said NParks in a statement on Tuesday (Nov 30).

The awards recognises outstanding achievements by public organisations and individuals to combat transboundary environmental crime.

The joint operation between the government agencies was conducted earlier this year.

On May 25, the Anti-Smuggling Bureau of Shenzhen Customs District detected a suspected elephant ivory ornament in an air express consignment from France transiting in China, and destined for Singapore.

This information was shared by the Anti-Smuggling Bureau of General Administration of China Customs with Singapore Customs.

The cargo was released for shipment to Singapore as part of plans between the Chinese bureau and NParks to coordinate its delivery.

It was then intercepted here by an inter-agency team comprising the ICA, Singapore Customs and NParks.

NParks subsequently arranged for the ornament to be delivered within Singapore in order to identify its buyer. The seller was also later identified.

Both are currently assisting with investigations, said NParks.

Also winning an award - in the category of Gender Leadership and Women Empowerment - was NParks director of wildlife trade Anna Wong.

Dr Wong has coordinated multiple enforcement operations against illegal wildlife trade, including the record seizure of 37.5 tonnes of pangolin scales and 8.8 tonnes of elephant ivory here in 2019.

She also oversees the agency's K9 unit, which was established in August this year and comprises dogs trained to detect wildlife and wildlife products such as elephant ivory.

NParks said on Tuesday that the awards are a recognition of the agency's efforts to tackle the illegal trade in wildlife.

"We continuously monitor and enforce against such activities both on an international and domestic level," said the agency.

For example, it seized more than 90 wildlife specimens - including snakes, tarantulas and sugar gliders - in April this year during an islandwide operation against 13 people.

The group had advertised various wildlife species for sale through social media platforms such as Facebook and Telegram, and e-commerce platforms.

Many of these species are not allowed to be sold or offered for sale or kept as pets in Singapore, said NParks.

The agency also said it is currently reviewing the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act.

The legislation supports the implementation and enforcement of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, of which Singapore is a signatory.

NParks is currently holding a month-long public consultation to seek feedback on proposed amendments to the Act and Singapore's approach to combating illegal wildlife trade. The consultation will end on Dec 12.

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