Singapore, a major transshipment hub in the illegal ivory trade, said Monday it will impose a ban on domestic trade in elephant ivory from September 2021, tightening the noose on the proliferation of such trade after a global ban on international trade in elephant ivory two decades ago.

The ban, announced by the National Parks Board, aims to halt the sale of elephant ivory and ivory products, and public display of elephant ivory and ivory products for commercial purposes in Singapore.

The wealthy Southeast Asian city-state is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which has banned the international trade in elephant ivory since 1990.

Once the ban comes into effect, those convicted of flouting the law can be fined up to S$10,000 (around $7,200) per specimen, but not exceeding S$100,000 in total, and/or face up to 12 months' jail.

However, public display of elephant ivory or ivory products for educational or religious purposes will continue to be permitted while those who own musical instruments and personal effects like bird cages that contain ivory may continue to use them in public, the Board said in a statement.

(Officials at the Kenya Wildlife Service set fire to some 105 tons of elephant tusk ivory, mainly confiscated from poachers, at Nairobi National Park near Nairobi on April 30, 2016.)

Singapore has been identified by the World Wildlife Fund as a major transit hub for the illegal wildlife trade as the country's strong connectivity makes it an attractive route for syndicates to smuggle products through its shores.

The WWF hailed Singapore's ivory ban, saying it is "an important step in closing Singapore's domestic market for ivory" and also "strengthens the global momentum to stop illegal wildlife trade."

"Notably, Singapore's domestic ivory trade ban offers no exceptions, potentially making it the world's strictest ivory ban in scope and implementation," it said.

The WWF has uncovered over 40 shops selling ivory in Singapore and also found that traders could easily use loopholes to smuggle ivory across borders undetected.

Maureen DeRooij, chief executive officer of WWF-Singapore, said in the WWF statement that Singapore's domestic trade ban "sends a strong signal to global governments and underlines the urgency to stop the illegal wildlife trade."

With the announcement coming days before 183 governments meet at the 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP18) to the CITES in Geneva, DeRooij expressed hope that Singapore's move will spur more Southeast Asian governments to close their domestic markets and step up enforcement efforts.

The United States, Britain, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan have announced domestic bans on ivory in recent years, it said.

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