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NParks investigating alleged smuggling of exotic animals aboard Scoot flight to India

The National Parks Board (NParks) is investigating an alleged case of animal smuggling aboard a Scoot flight departing Singapore for India.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, Dr Anna Wong, director of wildlife trade at NParks, said on Nov 30 that the agency was alerted to a case of animal smuggling on Scoot flight TR540 which departed Singapore on Nov 7.

Scoot said that it was aware of the “incident involving exotic animals brought into Coimbatore”, the second largest city after Chennai in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu, and that the airline was working closely with the authorities.

Dr Wong said that investigations are ongoing.

“The import and export of all animals into Singapore requires prior approval from NParks. In addition, Singapore is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) and is committed to international effort to curb illegal wildlife trade,” she added.

The import, export, and re-export of Cites specimens – which include live animals, animal parts, and animal-based products – are regulated through permits which are issued only when certain trade conditions are met.

The Times of India reported on Nov 10 that customs officers in Coimbatore International Airport had found the exotic animals in three pieces of luggage left unclaimed on the conveyor belt at the baggage claim area.

The animals found included exotic species of tarantulas, tortoise species such as the albino red eared slider, red-eared slider, and African spurred tortoise as well as royal pythons.

Airline staff contacted three passengers over the phone regarding the unclaimed bags, the Times of India said, and that two men, identified only as Dominic and Ramasamy, were detained by customs officers for questioning.

Preliminary investigations had revealed that the trio had intended to smuggle the animals from Singapore as part of the illegal pet trade, said the newspaper.

Officers from the Indian Forest Service were also involved in the investigations.

In Singapore, first-time offenders caught importing or exporting any animal or bird without a licence can be jailed up to a year, fined up to $10,000 or both.

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