Wiping out the Trade in Wildlife Recapped

Date: 9 April 2010 (Friday)
Venue: Civil Service College
Participants: Nature guides and prospective nature guides
Facilitators: Ria Tan, November Tan and Chen Jinwen
Guest Speaker: Louis Ng

Last Friday at the Leafmonkey workshop, we put aside our lighter, cheerier topics on the amazing biodiversity in Singapore and shifted our attention to a more somber one: wildlife trade in Singapore.

Do we extend our hand?

Yes, in Singapore. For many of us, this was a surprising realization. How could Singapore, with its tight border controls, miss the countless animals – endangered and/or caught in the wild – which were smuggled into its borders?

Louis from ACRES, together with Anbu and Zan, came down to share with us the sobering reality of wildlife trade in Singapore.

Louis Ng of ACRES

In his comprehensive presentation, we were riveted as we learnt about the ease of buying tiger and bear parts from nondescript Chinese medicine shops. To think that just downstairs, amongst your neighbourhood shops, could be one which is doing its part to exacerbate the poaching of tigers in another country – such is the extent of the problem we have on our hands. Singapore’s efficiency and importance in trade works just as well for illegal wildlife as for legal commodities.

Bears in horrid conditions - the cruel trade in bear products

And this is not an easy problem to solve, as we found out during the activity after Louis’ talk. We held a mock debate session between numerous stakeholders – the government (AVA), public, pet traders and the NGOs. The issue at hand was the (illegal) wild pet trade in Singapore, which is prolific and often involves the extreme suffering of the animals which are smuggled in cramped conditions. However, whether it was due to the bureaucracy of our government or the immense popularity and rational – if completely mad – reasoning of our pet traders, our pet traders gained the upper hand. Kudos to Lesley, the epitome of the rationally mad pet trader, who managed to present with a straight face while the rest of the pet traders were trying their hardest not to break out in laughter.

Despite the negative slant of the debate, an important learning point was to take responsibility in whatever we believe in. Evident from our debate was finger-pointing: from within stakeholder to between on the problem of wild pet trade. Nothing happens unless we take the first step. I am glad to hear about ACRES initiatives like the rescue centre and undercover investigations, as it means someone has taken the lead. Is it our turn now?

November Says:
To show our appreciation for Louis and ACRES staff for taking time out to do this workshop with us, and also to support their cause of helping animals in the wildlife trade, a total of 195 peanuts contributed to the golden pig by workshop participants were donated to ACRES.