Man who tried to smuggle birds in PVC tubes gets 9 weeks jail

SINGAPORE - He wanted to import nine live birds into Singapore, so 43-year-old Leong Kay Cheong stuffed the birds into customised polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tubes and wrapped them up in aluminium foil and black trash bags.

On Friday, the Singaporean was sentenced to nine weeks in jail for illegally importing the birds, and will also serve a concurrent three-week sentence for animal cruelty.

The birds were found inside Leong's luggage at Changi Airport in April 2014. He had arrived on a flight from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.

The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) identified three of the birds as White-Rumped Shama birds (Copsychus malabaricus), and six of the birds as Melodious Laughing Thrush birds (Garrulax canorus), which is protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

The birds were individually concealed in customised PVC tubes with perforated holes on both ends. Each tube was wrapped with aluminium foil and black trash bags. There was no food and water provided for the birds.

Seven of the birds were found dead on arrival and the other two died a few days later.

Under the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act (ESA), CITES permits are required for any import, export and re-export of CITES species, including their parts and products.

It is also an offence under the ESA if the CITES species or their parts and products are not accompanied by proper CITES permits when they are in transit or being transhipped through Singapore.

Penalties for infringing the Act include fines of up to $50,000 per scheduled species (not exceeding a maximum aggregate of $500,000) and/or up to 2 years imprisonment.

In addition, under the Animals and Birds Act, any person who neglects to supply the animals with food and/or water or subject them to unnecessary suffering and distress, shall be guilty of animal cruelty and shall be liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding $10,000 and/or imprisonment for a term up to 12 months.

"To date, Singapore is one of the few countries in the region to remain free from Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), or bird flu. For trade and public health purposes, it is important that the Republic maintains its bird flu-free status through strict import regulations and enforcement, and by working closely with partner enforcement agencies to deter illegal import across borders," Mr Gerald Neo, senior executive manager of the Quarantine & Inspection group (Wildlife Section) at AVA, said.