It was the biggest seizure of illegal wildlife from a home in 11 years and naturally the offender received one of the biggest fines ever meted out for such offences. Ong Ming Siang, 33, was fined a total of $41,000 on Thursday after pleading guilty to contravening the Endangered Species (Import & Export) Act and the Wild Animals and Birds Act.
Acting on a tip-off, officers of the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority inspected a Housing Board flat in Toa Payoh North on June 3 last year. Among the 32 wildlife and endangered animals seized were three rare ball pythons, two Indian star tortoises, a slow loris, three black-tailed prairie dogs, two sailfin dragons and five ornate horned frogs.
AVA records revealed that the animals were not indigenous and had been brought in without permits. Investigations then revealed some of the animals were given to Ong while others were bought by him. However, no further details were told to the court.
AVA's prosecuting officer, Mr Yap Teck Chuan, also said that there was no evidence linking Ong to any wildlife smuggling syndicate but asked for a heavy fine as there was evidence to show that the animals were for sale.
The maximum punishment for contravening the Endangered Species Act is a $500,000 fine and a two year jail term while the maximum penalty under the Wild Animals and Birds Act is a $1,000 fine.
Pleading for leniency, defence counsel Alywin Goh said that a heavy fine would cripple Ong financially as his client had also to support a Thai wife and two sons, aged two years and one-year old.
District Judge Hamidah Ibrahim allowed Ong, who works in his father's provision shop, to pay $16,000 first and the remaining $25,000 two months thereafter.
This is the biggest haul of wildlife since 2002, when a man was fined $25,000 and jailed for three months for owning 47 illegal wild animals as pets.