SINGAPORE- A law that aims to stamp out wildlife trafficking in Singapore was strengthened on Monday (July 4), with changes to the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act imposing stiffer penalties on those found guilty.
Under the amended law, the maximum jail term for individuals involved in the illegal wildlife trade has tripled from two years to six years, while the new maximum fine has increased from $50,000 per species to $100,000 per specimen.
Companies found trafficking endangered species would also face higher fines and prison sentences, Senior Minister of State for National Development Tan Kiat How told Parliament.
This is because corporations generally have more resources and the means to move larger quantities of illegally-traded species listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).
Species on Appendix I of Cites – an international treaty that aims to to protect endangered plants and animals – include animals on the brink of extinction, such as Asian elephants and pangolins. International trade in these creatures is only permitted in exceptional circumstances.
Offenders found guilty of trafficking species listed on Cites Appendix II – which includes species such as hippopotamuses – and Appendix III species, such as foxes, will also face higher fines of up to $50,000 for each specimen, up from a maximum of $50,000 for each species.
Trade is allowed for wildlife species listed on Appendix II but this is strictly controlled to ensure their survival. Wild animals and plants listed on Appendix III refer to species which are protected in at least one country.
The amended law also imposes a maximum jail term of four years for such offenders, up from two. Corporations who trade Appendix II and III species face fines of up to $100,000 per specimen and imprisonment of up to six years.
New safeguards will also be introduced to protect the identity of informers to encourage more individuals to come forward and provide information regarding illegal wildlife trade, which will help facilitate investigations by the National Parks Board (NParks).
These amendments to the law would ensure that the penalties issued are proportionate to the offence, and serve to further deter illegal trade of wildlife both internationally and domestically, said NParks in a statement on Monday.
NParks’ enforcement powers will also be strengthened so that it can tackle illegal wildlife trade more effectively.
For instance, if NParks seizes a shipment of non-Cites timber planks, with illegally traded elephant ivory concealed beneath those planks, NParks could previously seize only the elephant ivory. But with the new amendments, NParks can now also seize items used to conceal these species, in this case, the timber planks.
These changes will further deter against illegal wildlife trade as would-be smugglers would stand to lose their additional cargo that was used to commit the offence.
Mr Tan said that the threat of illegal wildlife trade is constantly evolving, and its profitability has led to smugglers constantly finding new loopholes for exploitation.
“So beyond strengthening our research capabilities, partnerships and engagements, we must ensure that our regulations and enforcement tools remain up-to-date and effective,” he said.