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219 native animals recovered from illegal smuggling attempt

Animals in suitcase
Animals in suitcase WA Police Force

Two-hundred and nineteen native animals have been recovered from an alleged smuggling operation after being discovered in a vehicle near Eucla, 1200km east of Perth. This is the largest seizure of native animals ever undertaken in WA.

WA Police Force intercepted the speeding vehicle on Eyre Highway, 20m west of Mundrabilla and discovered 15 large bags and around 15 plastic containers and bottles housing 198 reptiles, of which 58 are venomous, 16 marsupials, three cockroaches and two spiders.

WA Police Force seized the animals and handed them to the Parks and Wildlife Service for identification, a health assessment and holding. The animals are being assessed by vets at Perth Zoo.

WA Police Force are leading the investigation into unlawful possession and animal welfare cruelty of native wildlife, which are protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950.

Wildlife Officer Cameron Craigie said many of the animals were found in small bags placed on top of each other and were in very cramped and inhumane conditions.

“Unfortunately, when found, several of the animals were already dead, or were in very poor health. As such we have had to euthanase the ones that were severely compromised,” he said.

“Most of the animals found were from the Wheatbelt, Goldfields and South Coast regions.

“Taking native fauna from the wild is illegal and legislation is in place to prohibit this, including exporting native wildlife interstate or internationally.

“This illegal activity poses significant risk to the animals’ welfare, which is rarely considered by offenders and we have seen reptiles smuggled in inhumane conditions for extended periods of time without food or water, in extremes of temperature and generally with rough handling/treatment.

“Any animals that do survive are usually purchased and sold on the black market into collections that are often not subject to regulations or welfare monitoring by Government authorities.”

Mr Craigie said WA’s animals were particularly sought after and fetch premium prices due to the high levels of biodiversity and the large colour variations throughout different regions of the State.

“Unfortunately, the illegal wildlife trade throughout the world is increasing and as a result each animal now has a monetary value of up to around $4000 - $10,000 internationally.

“Detecting people taking native fauna is difficult considering the size of the State, so we encourage people to report any suspicious behaviour to WA Police or the Wildcare Helpline on 9474 9055.”

The maximum penalty for illegally exporting/importing and possessing wildlife under the Wildlife Conservation Act is $4000 or $10,000 for specially protected species.

The new Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 contains significantly increased penalties for offences that involve the taking or disturbing of our native biodiversity. The penalties for taking a critically endangered species will be up to $500,000 for an individual and $2.5 million for an offence by a body corporate once this legislation is fully proclaimed.

Last modified on Tuesday, 01 May 2018 11:00