2 Men Fined for Keeping Illegal Exotic Pets at Home, Including Endangered Animals

While most of us usually prefer dogs and cats as pets, there are some who prefer other animals. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with liking other animals, but the problem comes when one tries to keep endangered and wild animals as pets.

Two Singaporean men, 31-year-old Nonis Randy Amin Nonis Amran and 39-year-old Freddy Yeo Chong Wei have been fined in court on Wednesday, 21 July, after they were found to have illegally kept exotic pets and paid someone to smuggle more animals across the Causeway.

The First Case

Nonis, a self-professed animal lover and an Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) volunteer, had kept two central bearded dragons and a green iguana in his flat along Yishun Ring Road.

The iguana is listed under the schedule of the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act.

In November 2019, he wanted to buy another lizard since he had a spare tank, so he sourced all over Facebook, before landing on a few pages of exotic pet shops in Malaysia. Trying his luck, he sent a message to the Exotics Hub store in Johor Baru and asked if they had an Argentine tegu and if it was possible for them to deliver it to Singapore.

Just like the iguana, the tegu is also another endangered animal.

The salesperson he spoke to said that it was possible and that they would require a deposit of 50% of the cost of the tegu, which was S$600. He would also have to pay a transportation fee for the tegu, which cost S$100.

On 7 November, Nonis paid a deposit of S$300 to the store’s co-owner Mitchell Edberg Li Heyi.

Li was in charge of coordinating the orders between his Singapore customers and suppliers in Malaysia. After this was done, he would smuggle the animals across the Causeway.

He asked if Nonis was available to collect the tegu on the same day, but he didn’t get a reply from Nonis, so he said he could only deliver it on the evening of 9 November.

And when 9 November rolled around, Li told Nonis that the delivery would be delayed, and that it would only be delivered at 3am the next day.

However, before the delivery could even take place, Li was caught by an immigration officer when he attempted to cross Woodlands Checkpoint.

When they searched his car, they found that he kept the animals in individual plastic containers, and kept the tegu in a breakfast cereal box. The animals were left in their boxes for at least five hours.

Li was charged last year with a jail sentence of two months and a fine of S$9,600 for importing 22 illegal animals into Singapore. These animals included the tegu, sugar glider, and poison dart frogs.

Three days after he was nabbed, National Parks Board (NParks) enforcement officers searched Nonis’ residence and seized his bearded dragons and iguana that were found in his bedroom. Nonis later admitted that he bought them for his own exotic collection.

The Second Case

The second case was a little more straightforward.

Yeo already had one sugar glider as a pet that he kept in his flat along Yishun Ring Road, but he tried to purchase two more from Li for S$180.

He paid half of the amount as a deposit to Li, but was later told by Li that he only managed to procure one sugar glider for him.

After Li was caught, NParks officers also searched Yeo’s residence and found that he already had one sugar glider, and he admitted that he purchased it from a seller on Carousell back in 2017.

The Court Hearing

During the court hearing, Nonis’ laywer, Mr Timothy Tang, explained that the only reason why Nonis kept these exotic pets was that he was “an animal lover, especially in relation to reptiles”.

The lawyer elaborated and said Nonis took care of the animals “as though they were family” and cooperated with the authorities. His love can also be seen from how he was an avid volunteer with Acres and was “almost a friend of NParks”. He was also often seen posting videos on social media about Singapore’s native wildlife.

As such, Mr Tang said that Nonis would not re-offend, and he sought a lower fine of S$6,000.

Ms Wendy Tan from NParks prosecuted both cases, and rebutted that as an Acres volunteer, Nonis should have known better than to keep illegal exotic pets. He started volunteering in April 2019, and still went on to purchase an illegal wild animal half a year later.

She added that the articles about enforcement against the illegal wildlife trade could be easily found on the Acres website.

She also said, “Buyers of these animals indirectly support the trade by creating demand. This has to be stopped… If he’s so interested in taking care of animals, he could have done so at Acres but he ordered them to keep as personal pets.”

Nonis ended up being fined a total of S$8,000. He was also ordered to pay S$900 to NParks for the cost of housing the illegal animals.

Yeo was fined S$1,000 for housing a sugar glider.

For keeping a wild animal, one can be fined a maximum of S$1,000. However, this was recently increased to a S$10,000 fine and a jail sentence of six months after the Wild Animals and Birds Act was amended to become the Wildlife Act.

For keeping an endangered animal and abetting the importation of a scheduled species, Nonis could have also been given a maximum fine of S$50,000 and a jail sentence of two years.

Featured Image: Anom Harya/ shutterstock.com