Reptiles may spread salmonella to humans

SINGAPORE - Snakes and most other reptiles are still not allowed to be kept as pets. Yet, on ad platforms ChaosAds and Craiglist, four pythons were listed for sale in the past two weeks alone.

This month, officials made one of the biggest seizures of exotic pets.

On June 3, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) seized more than 30 wild animals from an individual living in an HDB flat, after a tip-off.

The animals seized included highly endangered and threatened species like the slow loris, marmoset, Indian star tortoise and ball python. It was AVA's largest inland seizure of wildlife since 2002.

AVA says it is illegal to keep any reptiles, aside from the red-eared terrapin and the Malayan box turtle, as pets.

Reptiles may introduce and spread diseases such as salmonella to humans and domestic animals, a spokesman said. Singapore's biodiversity could also be greatly affected if such reptiles were released in the wild, as most of them are non-native.

Another reason given by AVA was the fear that if the reptile escapes, it may cause nuisance, fear or even trauma to the public. One listing, posted on Craiglist, was for a reticulated python.

When The New Paper on Sunday, posing as a potential buyer, contacted the seller, he said he had "caught" the reptile in the wild and it had already been sold.

Reticulated pythons, along with other species of snakes like the boa constrictor and Burmese python, are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).

Cites is an international agreement to ensure that trade does not threaten wildlife species with extinction.

The maximum penalties for smuggling Cites species and their parts/products include a fine of $50,000 per specimen and/or a jail term of up to 2 years.

Anyone who possesses, sells, advertises, or displays for sale any illegally imported Cites-protected species and their parts/products is liable to the same penalties.

The same penalties apply if netizens are caught advertising or selling snakes on the Internet.

Snakes found in Singapore are also protected. There are about 60 species of snakes, such as the reticulated python, the oriental whip snake and the king cobra, in Singapore.

It is an offence to trap, keep or kill wild animals such as snakes, without a licence from AVA.

The offence carries a maximum penalty of $1,000 per animal upon conviction and the forfeiture of the animals.

The offender may also be charged for animal cruelty if the animal is found injured.

Get The New Paper for more stories.