What is the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act?
The Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act ("ESA") regulates the trade in Singapore of animal and plant species that are listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) agreement. You can find out more about our approach on CITES and Centre for Wildlife Forensics.
Public Consultation on Proposed Amendments to the ESA
As part of the review of the ESA, the Ministry of National Development (MND) and NParks held a public consultation between 12 November and 12 December 2021.
Major stakeholders such as traders, shipping companies, the Singapore Logistics Association, academic experts, and non-governmental organisations, were consulted. Two engagement workshops were also conducted with members from the nature community, including youths.
A majority of those who participated in the consultation were supportive of the proposed amendments of putting in place stronger enforcement powers to tackle wildlife trade, as well as to provide greater clarity for stakeholders on the scope of Singapore's wildlife trade regulations. Other suggestions brought up included increasing the penalties for illegally traded species protected under CITES, such as imposing a longer imprisonment term. NParks had carefully studied the feedback received and incorporated relevant suggestions in the amendments to the ESA.
Amendments to the ESA
MND and NParks have reviewed these suggestions and consulted the relevant stakeholders, and introduced the Endangered Species (Import and Export) (Amendment) Bill in Parliament on 9 May 2022. The Bill was passed on 4 July 2022 and the amendments are summarised below.
1) Stiffer penalties for illegal trade in species protected under CITES
The previous maximum fine for illegal trade in Appendix I, II and III species was $50,000 per species and the maximum imprisonment term was two years. For Appendix I species, the new maximum fine and maximum imprisonment term for an individual is up to $100,000 per specimen (not exceeding aggregate of $500,000 or the market value of all specimens at the material time, whichever is higher) and six years. For Appendix II and II species, the new maximum fine and maximum imprisonment term is up to $50,000 per specimen (not exceeding aggregate of $500,000 or the market value of all specimens at the material time, whichever is higher) and four years.
In addition, for corporate offenders, which includes both companies and individuals acting under the direction of companies, the fines and imprisonment terms will be higher than that for individuals. This is because corporations generally have more resources and the means to move larger quantities of illegally-traded CITES species. Hence, the impact of their actions could far outweigh that of an individual and the penalties should reflect the severity of their actions accordingly. For Appendix I species, the maximum fine is up to $200,000 per specimen (not exceeding aggregate of $1,000,000 or the market value of all specimens at the material time, whichever is higher) and the maximum imprisonment term is eight years. For Appendix II and II species, the maximum fine is up to $100,000 per specimen (not exceeding aggregate of $1,000,000 or the market value of all specimens at the material time, whichever is higher) and the maximum imprisonment term is six years.
We are also aligning the penalties for the illegal domestic trade in CITES species to those for illegal international trade in CITES species through Singapore.
These amendments are to better ensure that penalties issued are proportionate to the offence, to further deter illegal trade of wildlife both internationally and domestically.
2) Stronger enforcement powers for NParks to tackle illegal wildlife trade
The new amendments will:
a) Make clear that items used to deliberately conceal and/or convey CITES specimens, for example, timber planks used to conceal elephant ivory tusks, can be seized and forfeited under the Act as well.
b) Introduce new safeguards to protect the identity of informers to encourage more individuals to come forward and provide information regarding illegal wildlife trade, which will facilitate our investigations. For example, individuals in court proceedings may not be allowed to disclose the name, address, or any relevant particulars of an informer who has helped with the case. Documents that may lead to the discovery of the informer’s identity may also be concealed. Doing so will enhance NParks’ investigative powers in evidence gathering and augment enforcement.
c) Penalise individuals who make or furnish misleading statements, declarations, representations or information, and/or produce any permit or certificate that is misleading in nature
d) Allow authorised officers to be accompanied by assistants, such as auxiliary police officers, which will enhance operational efficiency
e) Allow NParks to recover costs for the testing of all seized items.
3) Greater clarity for stakeholders on the scope of Singapore’s wildlife trade regulations
The new amendments will make clear in the Act:
a) That animal hybrids of CITES Appendix I and II species are considered as full species.
b) That naturally excreted animal by-products such as faeces and urine are excluded from the Act.
c) The documents that are needed for CITES species in transit or transshipment through Singapore.
d) That retrospective permits and altered permits are not accepted for the trade of CITES species in Singapore, except under certain conditions.
These enhancements strengthen Singapore's regulatory and enforcement regime for the trade in species protected under CITES. It also reflects Singapore's firm commitment and efforts to tackle the global issue of illegal wildlife trade, as a Party to CITES.