TRAFFIC Southeast Asia

NEWS RELEASE
Illegal turtle shipment seized in Singapore

Kuala Lumpur, July 3 -- Six hundred and thirty Asian Softshell Turtles Amyda cartilaginea from Indonesia were confiscated by the authorities at the Jurong Fishing Port in Singapore last Friday. The turtles were being illegally imported into Singapore for consumption.

The turtles, worth approximately SGD 50,000, had arrived by boat in the early afternoon from the Port of Tembilahan, Riau, in Sumatra, Indonesia. Twenty five were dead on arrival, and the remaining individuals are awaiting repatriation.

Acting on a tip-off, enforcement officers from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), the CITES Management Authority of Singapore, inspected the vessel and found the illegal reptile consignment.

The 25-year-old Singaporean who imported the turtles has been arrested and will be charged soon under the newly revised Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act 2005 (ESA), which came into force on March 1, 2006. He faces the possibility of being fined up to SGD50,000 (USD31,362) per specimen, subject to a maximum of SGD500,000 (USD313,620), and up to a maximum jail term of two years upon conviction.

Asian Softshell Turtles are listed on Appendix II of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which means trade in this species is legal only with a valid CITES permit. This shipment was unaccompanied by any CITES documentation, and also contravened the Indonesian government?s prohibition of CITESlisted species being exported from unregistered ports, such as Tembilahan.

This is the second seizure of turtles in Singapore in the past month, following the interception of 2520 South-east Asian Box Turtles Cuora amboinensis which arrived at the Jurong Fishing Port ? also originating from Tembilahan ? on June 13.

?We are stepping enforcement efforts at our end, because we want to send a clear message across that Singapore is not a transit hub for the illegal wildlife trade,? said AVA?s Wildlife Regulatory Branch Head, Lye Fong Keng.

These recent seizures also highlight the need for enhanced enforcement in Indonesia, as for each seizure made, many others probably successfully pass through undetected.

While Indonesia has strict legislative requirements that only permit the export of CITES-listed species from certain ports, and imposes fixed export quotas (27,000 specimens annually for Asian Softshell Turtles), consistent and efficient monitoring and enforcement remains a challenge, especially with increasingly sophisticated smuggling methods.

Singapore and Indonesia joined fellow Member Countries of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN*) in launching the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEANWEN) in December 2005. The network focuses on enhancing wildlife law enforcement at the national level, and increased co-operation between government authorities dealing with CITES, Customs and Police jurisdictions to counteract wildlife crime.

TRAFFIC Southeast Asia and WildAid, two NGOs working to support ASEAN-WEN, commended Singapore?s actions as a key step in the global fight against illegal wildlife smuggling.  ?Singapore is taking exemplary action in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade,? said TRAFFIC Southeast Asia Senior Programme Officer Chris R. Shepherd. ?These seizures clearly demonstrate Singapore?s commitment to regional efforts in combating widespread illegal practices of wildlife smuggling.?
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