Japanese national charged with wildlife smuggling and animal cruelty

Bobtail lizard seizure
Bobtail lizard seizure Australian Border Force

A 45-year-old Japanese man has been charged after he was intercepted at Perth International Airport allegedly attempting to smuggle six native bobtail lizards out of Australia.

Acting on a information from Western Australia’s Parks and Wildlife Service, Australia Border Force (ABF) officers identified the man and carried out a full baggage examination as he attempted to catch a flight to Hong Kong yesterday (November 8, 2018).

It will be alleged an x-ray of his check-in suitcase revealed the six bobtail lizards wrapped in paper towel and tightly packed inside a cloth bag.

It will be further alleged that three of the lizards were taken from Rottnest Island, one from the Midwest region and two from the Perth metropolitan area, and that some had been kept in hessian bags for up to eight days with no food and little water.

He was arrested by ABF investigators and charged with the following;

One count of attempting to export a regulated native specimen, contrary to section 303DD(1) of the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 whilst subjecting the lizards to cruel treatment.

Parks and Wildlife Service is expected to lay a number of charges under the Western Australian Wildlife Conservation Act 1950.

The maximum penalty for wildlife trade offences under Australian law is 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $210,000 for individuals or up to $1,050,000 for corporations.

The man is due to appear in the Perth Magistrates Court today.

Western Australian bobtails can attract up to $10,000 each on the international black market.

ABF Regional Commander for WA Rod O’Donnell said the ABF is committed to protecting Australian wildlife.

“The ABF works closely with its state and federal partners to detect, disrupt and investigate those involved in this cruel trade,” Commander O’Donnell said.

“Wildlife smuggling is a lucrative trade and we know individuals and organised criminal syndicates can make significant profits by exporting and selling Australia’s unique native fauna overseas, particularly in Asia.”

Parks and Wildlife Service wildlife officer Matt Swan said Western Australian reptiles were highly sought after on the black market because they were easy to care for, attractive, and exotic.

“The smuggling of native wildlife is not only illegal but cruel and inhumane, with reptiles often smuggled for extended periods of time without food or water, in extremes of temperature and generally in confined spaces,” he said.

“The animals have been checked by Perth Zoo vets, and our aim is to release these animals back into the wild, if possible.”

People with information about the illegal removal of reptiles or who notice any suspicious border related activity should call Australian Border Force’s Border Watch at Australia.gov.au/borderwatch or the Wildcare Helpline on 9474 9055

Last modified on Friday, 09 November 2018 16:18