Speech by Minister Desmond Lee at the Ivory Crushing Event and Launch of the Centre for Wildlife Forensics

Aug 11, 2020

Mr Joseph Koh, Chairman of World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore.

Mr Sylvian Boyreau and colleagues from INTERPOL.

Partners from CITES, overseas enforcement agencies, and the international research community that are plugging in to this event through the Internet.

Ladies and gentlemen. 

Thank you for joining us here on site, as well as via our livestream today. 

The illegal trade in wildlife threatens species and the survival of endangered species, destroys habitats and disrupts ecosystems around the world. 

Singapore adopts a zero-tolerance stance on the illegal trade in wildlife. We are a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES. We have put in place a strong legal enforcement framework to combat the illegal trade in CITES-listed species. 

Under CITES, international trade in elephant ivory is banned. This protects the world’s remaining elephant populations from being poached into extinction. 

We will be crushing around nine tonnes of ivory later, to signify and reaffirm our commitment to play our part to combat the illegal ivory trade. This includes the major seizure of 8.8 tonnes of ivory that Singapore made last year, which was estimated to have come from the senseless slaughter of nearly 300 African elephants.  

Collaboration with our global partners has been instrumental in helping us to make this seizure. As a mark of our partnership, we are live-streaming this to allow our partners from around the world to join us wherever they are.

For instance, information shared by the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China led us to find the ivory in a shipment that was falsely declared to have contained timber. Our further collaboration with China has led to the arrests of 14 suspected members of a criminal syndicate by Chinese authorities. 

Crushing this ivory we have seized ensures that it will never re-enter the market, and will help disrupt the global supply chain of illegally-traded ivory. This sends a clear signal to poachers, traffickers, and dealers, that Singapore resolves to stamp out the illegal trade in wildlife passing through our city.  

In addition, we also announced a ban on the domestic trade in elephant ivory in August last year. This ban will come into effect on 1 September next year. The sale of all elephant ivory and ivory products, and the public display of these items for the purposes of sale will be prohibited in Singapore. 

We will go further. Today, we will be launching our Centre for Wildlife Forensics to further support international efforts to curb illegal wildlife trade.

This Centre will build further on NParks’ in-house capabilities in wildlife forensic investigations. It will utilise DNA analysis methods like next-generation sequencing, and chemical methods such as isotope analysis to gain useful and meaningful insights that can be used to tackle poaching and wildlife trafficking. 

Through this, we will be able to analyse samples of seized ivory to determine where the elephants were poached from, to enable source countries to better target their enforcement efforts. 

The Centre will also partner regional and international experts on wildlife forensics analysis. This will enable us to continuously build and contribute our expertise to the conservation of endangered species around the world. 

The National Parks Board, Singapore Customs, and the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority of Singapore will continue to work closely together, and with our international partners, to maintain Singapore’s vigilance against the illegal trade in CITES-listed species. 

All of us can do our part to help protect elephants and other endangered species by not buying illegal wildlife products, and discouraging others from doing so too. 

On this note, I would like to thank our partners from both here and around the world for joining us. Today, we raise our capability to tackle wildlife trade, and to play a part as a responsible citizen of the global community.

Thank you.