Man gets 1 month's jail for smuggling 22 live star tortoises into Singapore

The tortoises were found in the boot of a car, kept in a bag of cloth and placed together with grocery bags.
The tortoises were found in the boot of a car, kept in a bag of cloth and placed together with grocery bags.PHOTO: AVA/ICA

SINGAPORE - A 50-year-old man was sentenced to one month's jail on Wednesday (April 25) for smuggling 22 live star tortoises into Singapore.

Khalid Awad Bamadhaj was also charged for causing unnecessary pain or suffering to the tortoises.

This charge was taken into consideration in the sentencing, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said in a statement on Wednesday.

ICA had alerted AVA to the detection of 22 live star tortoises in the boot of a car at Woodlands Checkpoint on June 23, 2016.

The tortoises were kept in a bag of cloth and placed together with grocery bags.

The case was referred to AVA for further investigation.

AVA found that Khalid had imported the reptiles without an AVA permit. He had intended to keep the smuggled tortoises as pets, AVA's investigation found.

The tortoises were identified as Indian Star Tortoises, a protected species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).

These endangered species are not allowed to be kept as pets.

The tortoises were seized and are currently in the care of Wildlife Reserve Singapore.

The authorities said in their statement that the Singapore Government "has zero tolerance in the use of Singapore as a conduit for smuggling of endangered species".

In Singapore, CITES permits are required for any import, export and re-export of CITES-listed species.

Those found guilty of doing so can be jailed for up to two years and/or fined up to $50,000 per scheduled species, not exceeding a maximum aggregate of $500,000.

The authorities reminded travellers not to import or keep wild animals as pets as demand for such animals fuels illegal wildlife trade.

"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," said ICA and AVA.

Non-native animals may also be a threat to Singapore's biodiversity if released.

ICA and AVA reminded travellers not to bring live animals, birds and insects into Singapore without a proper permit.

For more information on bringing back animals from overseas, visit AVA's website or download AVA's mobile app SG TravelKaki.

Those with information on illegal wildlife activities can call AVA at 6805-2992 or fill out its online feedback form.

All information shared with AVA would be kept strictly confidential.