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Straits Times 16 Feb 06
Man caught at airport with 12 rare birds
by Shefali Srinivas
A SINGAPOREAN man was caught at Changi Airport on Monday night trying to smuggle 12 endangered birds into the country.
Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officers found 11 blue-eyed cockatoos and one black-capped lory in his bags. Three of the birds were already dead and the others were unconscious. They had been tranquillised and either wrapped in cloth or paper and then stuffed into the bags. The officers also found a small half-filled bottle of clear liquid, a syringe and a needle in one of the bags. The man, who became very agitated, was immediately arrested.
He was caught after being stopped for a routine X-ray screening of his hand baggage at Terminal 1. He looked nervous and reluctant to hand over the bags, arousing the suspicion of the officer on duty. When asked about the contents of his bags, the man replied that he was carrying only clothes.
Preliminary investigations revealed he had bought the birds from a market in Papua New Guinea. The estimated market value of a blue-eyed cockatoo is $3,500 while a black-capped lory can fetch $650.
The blue-eyed cockatoo, found in the forests of Papua New Guinea, is said to be playful and friendly and can mimic any sound. Named for the blue circles around its eyes, it lives 50 to 60 years in the wild but only about 40 years when kept as a pet.
The black-capped lory, found in Irian Jaya, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea, has a striking red plumage, blue-green wings and a black forehead. Both birds are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
Anyone breaking the law can be fined up to $5,000 or jailed up to one year, or both. Repeat offenders can be fined $10,000. The man and the birds were handed over to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) for investigation.
AVA confirmed that three of the cockatoos were already dead when they were found.
Ms Lye Fong Keng, head of AVA's wildlife regulatory branch, said the illegal trade in birds is dangerous. Smuggled birds, sneaked in without health checks, could carry diseases such as bird flu.
Related articles on Singapore: wildlife trade and release of pets into our wild places
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