The Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES) documented 156 illegal pet advertisements online over a six-month period, involving animals that cannot be kept, imported, sold or advertised without authorisation under Singapore law.
The findings were part of a six-month investigation from June to December this year on how wildlife traffickers user online advertising platforms to ply their trade. ACRES reached out to 17 sellers as a test of authenticity, and found that 14 were genuine sellers, with some offering endangered species for sale.
The NGO also staked out dealings originating from illegal pet advertisements which culminated in joint stings with the AVA that saw the seizures of animals such as sugar gliders and an Asian Leopard Cat.
ACRES has approached Carousell and SPH Online Classifieds with its findings, seeking to establish methods to restrict the placement of illegal pet advertisements, in order to cut off a primary conduit of the illegal wildlife
trade. Both Carousell and SPH immediately removed the illegal pet advertisements on their platforms.
"Carousell observes the prohibition and restrictions on wildlife trade imposed by regulatory and enforcement agencies such as AVA, and we work very closely with them to prevent illegal wildlife trading via online platforms. To date, Carousell has been removing listings of illegal wildlife on our marketplace systematically through a content moderation process," said Carousell in an official response.
"Such ads are not allowed and it is unfortunate that some have slipped through our vetting. We will step up vigilance and work with ACRES to stop the online illegal wildlife trade," said SPH.
To curtail smuggling of live animals via the causeways and by air, ACRES has proposed that wildlife sniffer dogs be deployed to detect live animals in vehicles at the Woodlands and Tuas Checkpoints, and at the baggage retrieval areas in Changi Airport.
“With the proliferation of online platforms, it is now easier than ever to conduct these illicit activities. ACRES is concerned that upon seeing these ads, the public would think that it is legal and acceptable to keep wild animals as pets. We strongly urge anyone who come across the sale of wild animals to immediately contact ACRES. With the help of our enforcement agency, AVA, we can curb this illegal act and end this form of animal cruelty,” said Director of Advocacy Mr Tan En.
To strengthen enforcement, members of the public are encouraged to inform AVA and ACRES of advertisements for the sale of illegal wildlife as pets, whether online, in shops or by individuals. They may contact ACRES through the organisation's wildlife crime hotline (9783 7782) or via email ([email protected]).
For those who wish to support ACRES' efforts, its Animal Crime Investigation Unit is currently carrying out a fundraising campaign.