61 bags of elephant ivory were detected and seized at the Pasir Panjang Scanning Station ICA

Singapore's Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) have seized more than 60 bags of elephant ivory worth about US$2.5 million (S$3.28 million) on Monday from a Vietnam-bound shipment.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) officers have inspected the container at Pasir Panjang Scanning Station and found 1,787 pieces of ivory tusks in 61 bags, totalling about 3,500 kg.

On Thursday, AVA and ICA said in a joint statement that the shipment originated from Apapa, Nigeria, and was declared as containing groundnuts.

According to the statement, the ivory was meant to be re-exported to Vietnam. At present the importing is assisting the officers in investigations.

61 bags of elephant ivory were detected and seized at the Pasir Panjang Scanning Station ICA

In 2014, the authorities uncovered about 4.6 tonnes worth some $8 million. It was the largest seizure of elephant ivory in recent years.

Singapore follows the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) and it is an offence to illegally import and export, possess, sell, offer or advertise for sale or display illegal wildlife species.

The statement said that elephants are a protected species under Cites and international trade in elephant ivory is prohibited. Anyone convicted of such crime may face up to two years of jail or fined up to $500,000. Law states that the prohibited items will also be forfeited.

Similar penalties are also applicable to transit or trans-shipment of illegal wildlife species, including their parts and derivatives.

"Our borders are our first line of defence in safeguarding Singapore's security. The security checks are critical to our nation's security. The ICA will continue to conduct security checks on passengers and vehicles at the checkpoints to prevent attempts to smuggle in undesirable products, persons, drugs, weapons, explosives and other contrabands," ICA said.

"As the Government takes a zero-tolerance stance on the use of Singapore as a conduit to smuggle endangered species and their parts, AVA will take stern enforcement action against illegal wildlife smugglers," the statement added.

Members of the public are advised to contact AVA on 6805-2992 or through its website, if they have any information about the illegal wildlife trade.