‘It looked pitiful’, says man fined $1,000 for hacking python to death with cleaver in viral video
A man who was filmed killing a python with a cleaver in Boon Lay in April has been fined $1,000 by the National Parks Board (NParks).
In response to Straits Times’ queries, NParks’ group director of wildlife management Ryan Lee said on Wednesday that the board had completed its investigations into the killing, and imposed a composition fine against the man, who has since paid the fine.
Mr Lee said that it is an offence under the Wildlife Act to kill wildlife without the director-general’s approval. First-time offenders can be fined up to $10,000 or jailed up to six months, or both.
In the viral video, shared on Facebook by the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) in an appeal for information, a group of people can be seen using plastic pails and crates to hit a reticulated python at Boon Lay Place Market and Food Village.
The python, which appears to be over 2m long, is then taken next to a food stall, where the man is seen using a cleaver to repeatedly hack it to death.
The man was on Wednesday identified by Chinese-language news outlet Lianhe Zaobao as Mr Ricky Cheong, a 54-year-old assistant at a cooked food stall at the market.
When contacted, Mr Cheong told ST that he had no intention of killing the snake at first.
He said he was closing the stall when he heard a commotion and thought that a fight had broken out. When he went towards the ruckus, he saw several people around a python that was “circling around”.
The hawker said that he stepped in to capture the python because he felt it posed a danger as it “was big enough to eat a wild boar”. He said that the group tried to contain the snake with a pail and a blue crate but were unsuccessful.
Mr Cheong said that when he picked up the snake, it bit his left arm, and this prompted the group to hurl empty boxes, a crate and a pail at the animal. After successfully catching the snake, Mr Cheong said he observed that it was ailing, and wanted to end its suffering swiftly.
“The snake looked like it was in a lot of pain. It looked pitiful, so I used my cleaver to put it out of its misery,” he said.
Despite Mr Cheong being slapped with the fine, the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) said they were “deeply disappointed” about what they perceived as leniency of the punishment, and the lack of legal prosecution in the case.
Ms Anbarasi Boopal, co-chief executive of Acres, said that there was videographic evidence which showed the men’s intention to kill the snake, and moments in the video when the snake could have been contained using a blue crate until authorities arrive to handle the situation instead of hitting it.
She said: “Acres is unable to accept that the reason to chop the head of the snake was to put the snake out of pain and misery, while the video shows the individual victoriously holding the dead snake up and giving a thumbs up.
“We sincerely hope that these statements were not accepted by the authorities, as it runs counter to the factual (video) record.”
On the quantum of the fine, Ms Anbarasi said: “Based on the information & evidence made available for this case (videos, identity, police camera footage) and outcome of this case, Acres would like to ask: what acts of cruelty or evidence proving intention to kill will qualify to exercise at least half of the maximum penalty or even imprisonment in Singapore?”
Ms Anbarasi also shared that as part of outreach campaign Our Wild Neighbours, Acres held a weekend roadshow in August outside Boon Lay Food and Market Village to raise awareness on snake sightings and general wildlife etiquette.
Mr Cheong said he wanted to put this incident behind him, and added that the fine – which is almost one-third of his monthly income – would make him think twice about approaching a snake in the future.
He said: “I won’t appeal (the fine) to the authorities. I will just take it as a lesson and move on.”
What members of the public should do if they encounter a snake
Mr Lee advised people who encounter snakes in public to observe from a safe distance. They should also stay calm and back away slowly, giving it space to retreat.
“Do not approach or attempt to handle the snake. Any pets should also be kept on a tight leash for their safety,” he added.
If members of the public encounter a snake in a public area and require assistance, the public can call NParks’ 24-hour Animal Response Centre at 1800-476-1600.
More information on snakes can be found on NParks’ website: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/dos-and-donts/animal-advisories/snakes.