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Traffickers attempt to export hundreds of reptiles from WA

Reptiles concealed in a book.
Reptiles concealed in a book. Australian Customs and Border Protection Service

Two separate operations by State and Commonwealth authorities have thwarted the attempted trafficking of hundreds of Western Australian native animals.

An investigation by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) and the WA Department of Parks and Wildlife has prevented more than 150 reptiles and amphibians from being illegally exported out of the State, with four men also arrested and charged.

Two men from Russia and two from the Czech Republic were arrested by ACBPS officers at Perth International Airport on 6 February 2015 after the earlier discovery of reptiles allegedly hidden in hollowed out books and cigarette packets in packages posted from Carnarvon, Tom Price, Geraldton and Perth to European destinations.

Two of the men also allegedly had reptiles hidden in their luggage at the airport.

All of the men face charges under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and Western Australia’s Wildlife Conservation Act 1950.

Parks and Wildlife officers assisted with the operation and identified157 reptiles and amphibians including 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.

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 on 5 February, a total of 92 reptiles were found at Broome, Derby and NSW 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.

People with information about the illegal removal of native animals or who notice any suspicious activity suggesting that animals are being illegally removed should call Parks and Wildlife’s Wildcare Helpline 9474 9055, Customs Watch on 1800 061 800, the police, or Wildlife Trade Compliance on 02 6274 1900.

 

Media contact: Parks and Wildlife Media 9219 9999

Facebook: www.facebook.com/dpawwa

Twitter: @WAPARKSWILDLIFE

ACBPS Media: 02 6264 2244

Facebook: www.facebook.com/auscustomsnews

Twitter: @AusCustomsNews

 

Last modified on Monday, 16 February 2015 08:44