Record haul: 815 ornamental birds found aboard Malaysia-registered bus at Woodlands Checkpoint

The smuggled birds were found in 15 containers hidden aboard a Malaysia-registered bus. (PHOTOS: ICA)

SINGAPORE — Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officers recovered a record haul of 815 ornamental birds aboard a bus at the Woodlands Checkpoint on Saturday (10 August) morning.

A Malaysia-registered bus driven by a 35-year-old Malaysian man was stopped for security checks at the checkpoint at around 7am, said the ICA and National Parks Board (NParks) in a joint media release on Sunday. ICA officers inspecting the bus then found “signs of modification” around the bus’ rear tyres.

“Their suspicions were further aroused when they heard chirping sounds coming from within the bus,” said the release.

“Upon scrutiny, the officers uncovered 15 containers of 815 birds from modified compartments above the rear tyres of the bus, making it the largest seizure of ornamental birds in Singapore in recent years.”

The driver was then referred to the National Parks Board (NParks) for investigation as he did not possess a valid health certificate or import permits for the animals, the release added.

The smuggled birds were found hidden within modified compartments aboard a Malaysia-registered bus. (PHOTOS: ICA)

5 species recovered; 2 nationally threatened

The birds seized comprise five species: 38 White-rumped Shamas, 10 Oriental Magpie-Robbins, 141 Oriental White-eyes and 626 Munias (of the Scaly-breasted and White-headed varieties). Two of the species are listed as nationally threatened.

ICA and NParks noted that only 600 of the birds survived and are currently being cared for and quarantined at NParks facilities.

“Animals that are smuggled into Singapore are of unknown health status and may introduce exotic diseases, such as bird flu, into the country,” said NParks and ICA, noting that the animals’ well-being will also suffer poor conditions while being transported.

The release added that the illegal wildlife trade impacts the biodiversity and ecosystems of both the source and destination countries. “For example, the White-rumped Shama, a popular songbird in South-east Asia, is becoming increasingly rare throughout the region because of its popularity in the pet trade,” said the release.

The 815 birds recovered comprised five species: (clockwise from top left) the Scaly-breasted Munia, White-headed Munia, White-rumped Shama, Oriental White-eye and Oriental Magpie-Robin. (PHOTOS: NParks, Cai Yixiong)

Penalties for wildlife smuggling

Both bodies reminded travellers to not bring live animals, birds and insects into Singapore without a proper permit. Members of the public can refer to NParks’ website or free SG TravelKaki mobile app for more information on bringing animals back to Singapore.

Under the Animals and Birds Act, those convicted of importing any animal without a permit face fines of up to $10,000, jail terms of up to one year, or both. Those found guilty of causing unnecessary pain or suffering to any animal can be fined up to $15,000, jailed up to 18 months or both.

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