Man who released 3 stingrays into Lower Seletar Reservoir fined $2,600

Wan Ting Koh
File photo of a stingray: Getty Images

A man who released three pet stingrays into Lower Seletar Reservoir was fined $2,600 on Tuesday (26 September).

Larry Tan Chin Guan, 48, was caught after he filmed the act and uploaded the video on Facebook earlier this year.

On Tuesday, Tan was convicted in the State Courts on one count of pet abandonment and one count of releasing animals into the reservoir. The charges were levied by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) and the Public Utilities Board (PUB), respectively.

Tan, who stays in Yishun, bought four Motoro stingrays from a nearby aquarium one year ago, according to court documents. One died a few weeks later. He decided to release the remaining three stingrays after buying five Black Diamond stingrays in May this year.

Between 3pm and 4pm on 2 June this year, Tan placed the three stingrays into a bag with a portable air pump to provide oxygen. He drove five minutes away to a carpark near Orchid Country Club before walking to Lower Seletar Reservoir to release the stingrays.

Tan also filmed the act and uploaded the video onto the Facebook page SG Tiger Fish and Aquatic Lifestock. A netizen who came across the video informed the PUB about it on 3 June while another informed the AVA.

PUB managed to trace the video back to Tan and requested that he attend an interview to assist with investigations on 8 June.

Following Tan’s offence, PUB said that it had to advise the People’s Association and Singapore Sports Council of the danger from the stingrays. It ask water activities users to put on appropriate footwear and advised them against standing and walking in the reservoir’s shallow area.

It has also reminded contractor workers not to catch or touch the stingrays with their hands when removing aquatic plants and to report any such encounters to PUB.

“Reservoir staff were briefed to be alert and (have) stepped up surveillance at the reservoir (and) fishing area to look out for illegal release of fishes in the reservoir,” said PUB prosecutor Khong Pui Pui.

The prosecutor sought a fine of at least $500 for Tan on the Public Utilities Regulations breach, saying that the stingrays had venomous spines and might swim into open water bodies.

In mitigation, Tan, who is unrepresented, said through a court interpreter that he could have sold the stingrays but didn’t want others to use them to “make a profit”.

“That’s why I chose to release them back into nature, it’s just that I released them in the wrong place,” said Tan.

“I was unaware that I am not allowed to release animals in the reservoir or else I would not have done it in the day time.”

District Judge Kenneth Choo said that Tan’s decision to release the stingrays was “irresponsible and unwise”, adding that the stingrays were bred in captivity.

“Not only did you endanger the stingrays, you endangered the safety of the contractor workers who work in the reservoir,” said the DJ.

Motoro stingrays are freshwater rays that are native to South America. Adult Motoro stingrays can grow close to one metre in body diameter and weigh up to 35kg.

Tan is believed to be the first person to be prosecuted by the PUB and AVA for releasing stingrays.

For pet abandonment, Tan could have been jailed up to 12 months, and/or fined up to $10,000, for his first offence. For releasing animals in a waterbody without approval, be could have been fined up to $3,000.