Man who killed python with cleaver in Boon Lay fined $1k, said he 'put it out of its misery'

Sherlyn Sim
The Straits Times
November 8, 2023

A man who was filmed killing a python with a cleaver in Boon Lay in April has been fined $1,000 by the National Parks Board (NParks).

In response to Straits Times queries, NParks’ group director of wildlife management Ryan Lee said on Wednesday that NParks had completed investigations and imposed a composition fine which the man had paid.

Mr Lee said it is an offence under the Wildlife Act to kill wildlife without the director-general’s approval. First-time offenders can be fined up to $10,000 or jailed up to six months, or both.

In the video shared on Facebook by the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) in an appeal for information, some people are seen using plastic pails and crates to hit a reticulated python at Boon Lay Place Market and Food Village.

The python, which appears to be over 2m long, is taken to a food stall, where the man is seen using a cleaver to hack it.

He was identified on Wednesday by Chinese-language news outlet Lianhe Zaobao as Mr Ricky Cheong, a 54-year-old assistant at a cooked food stall in the market.

When contacted, he said he had no intention of killing the snake at first. He added that he was closing the stall when he heard a commotion and thought a fight had broken out.

When he saw several people around a python, he stepped in to capture it because he felt it posed a danger as it “was big enough to eat a wild boar”. He said the group’s efforts to trap it with a pail and a blue crate were unsuccessful.

Mr Cheong said that when he picked up the snake, it bit his left arm, prompting the group to hurl empty boxes, a crate and a pail at it. After catching the snake, he noticed that it was ailing and wanted to end its suffering swiftly.

“It looked like it was in a lot of pain. It looked pitiful so I used my cleaver to put it out of its misery.”

On NParks’ move to impose a fine, Acres said it is “deeply disappointed” over what it perceives as leniency in the punishment and lack of legal prosecution in the case.

Acres co-chief executive Anbarasi Boopal said there is videographic evidence showing a possibility of reining in the snake with a crate before the authorities arrive to handle the situation, instead of hitting it.

“Acres is unable to accept that the reason to chop the head of the snake was to put it out of pain and misery, while the video shows the individual victoriously holding the dead snake up and giving a thumbs up.

“We sincerely hope that these statements were not accepted by the authorities as it runs counter to the factual (video) record,” she said.

On the quantum of the fine, Ms Anbarasi said: “Based on the information and evidence made available for this case (videos, identity, police camera footage) and outcome of this case, Acres would like to ask: What acts of cruelty or evidence proving intention to kill will qualify to exercise at least half of the maximum penalty or even imprisonment in Singapore?”

In August, Acres held a weekend roadshow outside Boon Lay Place Market and Food Village to raise awareness on snake sightings and general wildlife etiquette, as part of the outreach campaign Our Wild Neighbours.

Mr Cheong said he wants to put this incident behind him, adding that the fine – which is almost one-third of his monthly income – would make him think twice about approaching a snake in the future.

“I won’t appeal (against the fine)... I will just take it as a lesson and move on.”

NParks said it would not take further actions against other individuals who were involved in the incident based on its investigation findings from available evidence.

What members of the public should do if they encounter a snake

Mr Lee advises people to stay calm and back away slowly, giving it space to retreat.

“Do not approach or attempt to handle the snake. Any pets should also be kept on a tight leash for their safety,” he added.

If people need assistance, they can call NParks’ 24-hour Animal Response Centre on 1800-476-1600.

More information on snakes can be found on NParks’ website on

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