Illegal wildlife trade affects climate change: Experts
Harsher penalties must be put in place to deter traffickers, says MP
In three months, Singapore seized nearly 38 tonnes of contraband pangolin scales and nine tonnes of elephant ivory tusks.
In total, the hauls were worth over $170.2 million, with about 40,000 pangolins and 300 elephants killed.
Wildlife experts told The New Paper such illegal wildlife trade can impact global climate change.
During Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally speech last month, he pointed out that Singapore was already facing the impact of climate change - hotter weather and heavier rainstorm.
Dr Andie Ang, a research scientist from the Wildlife Reserves Singapore Conservation Fund, said that overhunting and poaching are destabilising the climate in significant ways.
She told TNP: "Rich biodiversity, including elephants and pangolins, guarantees fertile soil through fertilisation that encourages forest growth, ensuring clean water and air.
"The loss of seed dispersers, like elephants, affects forest regeneration, which then results in long-term degradation of ecosystem functions. With fewer trees come higher amounts of carbon in our atmosphere."
On April 5, TNP reported that 12.9 tonnes of pangolin scales worth $52.3 million and 177kg of elephant ivory worth $120,000 were seized at the Pasir Panjang Export Inspection Station.
A week later, another 12.7 tonnes of pangolin scales worth $51.6 million were seized.
Both shipments were on their way from Nigeria to Vietnam, with Singapore as its transit hub.
Then, on July 24, 11.9 tonnes of pangolin scales and 8.8 tonnes of ivory, worth $66.2 million, were seized again in Singapore.
The shipment, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, was being shipped through Singapore to Vietnam.
The New York Times had reported that if forest elephants are wiped out by poachers, Africa's rain forests will lose 7 per cent, or three billion tons, valued at $59 billion, of its carbon storage ability.
Elephants play a key role in sequestering carbon, but they are on the brink of extinction.
MORE DETERRENCE NEEDED
Mr Louis Ng, MP for Nee Soon GRC, and founder of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, said that poachers are not backing down yet.
He said: "Wildlife trafficking is a perfect business opportunity for them. The cost to kill an animal is low, yet the profits are high.
"The current penalty stands at a maximum fine of $500,000. But each ivory tusk is valued at thousands of dollars and every haul is worth millions.
" There must be a higher penalty to act as an extra deterrence."
Mr N. Sivasothi, senior biological science lecturer at the National University of Singapore, said the loss of species, coupled with the strain of pollution and fragmentation, are making forests less resilient.
He said: "Wildlife trade targets a certain species and this compromises ecosystem functions.
"For example, if tigers are hunted to low numbers or extinction in protected areas, populations of prey such as deer and cattle can increase to the point of overgrazing and cause habitat damage, reducing forest resilience."