By Grace Chua
Three bird smugglers have been fined for trying to sneak songbirds into Singapore inside toothpaste boxes.
The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said Tuesday that the trio were caught by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) at Tuas checkpoint in September with six oriental white-eyes, or mata puteh.
ICA officers conducting routine car checks noticed flapping from toothpaste boxes in an armrest compartment before finding other birds in passengers' bags.
The smugglers were charged and sentenced last Tuesday, with each fined $6,000 - or $3,000 for each of two charges: illegal import and subjecting the birds to unnecessary suffering. The birds were handed over to Jurong Bird Park.
Meanwhile the AVA also revealed how it acted on a tip-off in June to seize two hedgehogs and two sugar gliders - small squirrel-like mammals - from a person selling them online.
The wildlife seller was given the maximum fine of $1,000 per animal last week and the animals were handed over to Wildlife Reserves Singapore.
It is illegal to trap, keep or kill wild animals without a licence. Offenders must hand them over and may be fined up to $1,000 per creature.
Demand for wild animal pets fuels the illegal wildlife trade, the AVA noted. Some of the animals can transmit diseases to humans and non-native species pose risks to native wildlife.
To guard against bird flu, ornamental birds exported to Singapore must be tested and quarantined. It is an offence to import live animals or birds without an AVA permit. The offence carries a maximum penalty of $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to a year.
In the first 10 months of this year there were 17 cases of individuals caught in possession of illegal wildlife and 13 cases of illicit cross-border wildlife trade. Last year, there were 19 and 14 such cases respectively.