Baby marmoset monkey for $4,800? Inside this ‘public’ Telegram group selling exotic animals in Singapore, Singapore News

Want to keep a hedgehog, a rhinoceros rat snake or even a monkey as a pet?

Well, if owning a Pomeranian or a small hamster is too common for you, it seems buying an exotic pet in Singapore isn’t that hard after all.

A Telegram user, who goes by the pseudonym SingaporeSafari, is apparently running a “June Holiday Special” sale in this 3,900-member chat group.

Calling “serious sitters only”, SingaporeSafari wrote on Wednesday, June 22: “Hedgehog $190 each, while supplies last. Star tortoise both for $1,100… Baby male marmoset $4,800.”

First established in June 2020, Exotic Pets Singapore is described as a strictly “discussion and knowledge only” platform.

But after joining this “public” group on Thursday (June 23), which doesn’t require an invite from existing members, AsiaOne discovered a thriving community where users post videos of their precious exotic pets.

Other users, like SingaporeSafari, openly advertise exotic animals to potential buyers, where most of them are illegal to keep as pets in Singapore.

For example, star tortoises, sugar gliders, monkeys, scorpions, and snakes are all available at fair prices.

When AsiaOne contacted SingaporeSafari on Friday, June 24, the Telegram user shared that Malaysia’s “classic” sugar gliders are still available for pre-order at $600 a pair.

Banned in Singapore due to concerns over the illegal wildlife trade, sugar gliders are native to Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

Warning the reporter, who posed as a potential buyer, not to ‘play the order’, SingaporeSafari said: ‘When stock arrives, you will know… Estimate three to four weeks or less.’

It is unclear how this vendor managed to smuggle these animals into Singapore.

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In a “pinned message” on the Telegram group, members of Exotic Pets Singapore are made aware of the risks involved.

“Remember that a lot of people – even the authorities – are watching and we may not know. [group] is purely for discussion,” user Sg JS wrote in December 2020.

But nearly two years later, that hasn’t stopped companies like SingaporeSafari from selling exotic pets online.

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In Singapore, the Wildlife Act prohibits the sale and possession of these wild animals as pets, according to the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS).

This is due to several reasons, mainly to prevent the spread of disease, disrupt the ecosystem, and affect Singapore’s biodiversity if released into the wild.

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To house animals confiscated from the illegal wildlife trade in Singapore, Acres established a rescue center in 2009.

But buying endangered wildlife, such as star tortoises and sugar gliders, would encourage poachers and smugglers, fueling the global illegal wildlife trade, AVS added.

In June 2020, a marmoset had to be euthanized for “humane and welfare reasons” after officers from the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) found it abandoned in Geylang.

And two men, including an Acres volunteer, were fined last July for keeping illegal exotic animals, including a sugar glider and a green iguana, in their home, Today reported.

Penalties for illegally importing endangered wildlife are strict. Violators caught can be fined up to $500,000 or jailed for up to two years – or both.

AsiaOne has contacted AVS for comment.

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About Patrick K. Moon

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