From Wildlife Extra:
Traffickers caught with Australian reptiles hidden in luggage
Two separate operations by State and Commonwealth authorities have thwarted the attempted trafficking of hundreds of Western Australian native animals.
Four men have been arrested and charged with animal trafficking in a joint investigation by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) and the Western Australia (WA) Department of Parks and Wildlife.
Two men from Russia and two from the Czech Republic were arrested by ACBPS officers at Perth International Airport after the discovery of more than 150 reptiles and amphibians allegedly hidden in hollowed out books and cigarette packets contained in packages posted from Australian addresses to European destinations.
Two of the men also allegedly had reptiles hidden in their luggage at the airport.
Parks and Wildlife officers identified 157 skinks, geckos, frogs, pygmy pythons, a dead death adder, a number of invertebrates and 33 dead reptiles which appear to have been tagged for use as specimens.
All of the men face charges under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and Western Australia’s Wildlife Conservation Act 1950.
ACBPS WA Investigations, Compliance and Enforcement Manager, Vesna Watt, warned of the significant penalties for those attempting to export wildlife.
“These arrests should serve as a warning to those looking to illegally exploit Australia’s natural fauna,” Ms Watt said. “Customs and Border Protection takes these matters seriously and those caught could face up to 10 years in prison.”
During a separate Parks and Wildlife operation, a total of 92 reptiles were found at Broome, Derby and New South Wales post offices and in a vehicle intercepted in Broome by WA Police.
A male from Western Australia and two NSW-based males, including a minor, could face more than 90 charges under the Wildlife Conservation Act.
Senior wildlife officer Rick Dawson said the two incidents represented a major breakthrough in the detection of reptile trafficking in WA history, with such a large number of animals rescued within a short period of time.
“Together, more than 240 native species have been prevented from leaving the State in the space of a week,” Mr Dawson said.
“Posting animals in packages and secreting them in luggage is not only illegal but cruel and inhumane – more than 20 of the reptiles were either dead by the time these parcels were intercepted, or have since died.
“The cooperative effort by agencies to conduct these operations and protect native wildlife is outstanding.”
Mr Dawson said among the animals seized from the operations were several species of reptiles listed as Specially Protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act. “Our aim is to always release rescued animals back into the wild, if possible,” he said.