Australian Border Force (ABF) officers at Sydney Airport have saved 10 native Shingleback lizards from a potentially deadly trip to Japan, after finding them concealed in a passenger’s luggage on Tuesday.
When ABF officers targeted the luggage of a 46-year-old man for an examination, they allegedly found 10 of the reptiles concealed within two trays covered with tissue paper and plastic tape.
The Japanese national was arrested and charged with one count of exporting regulated native specimens contrary to s303DD of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
The lizards were seized by ABF officers, who cared for them until they could be handed over to the Taronga Zoo Wildlife Hospital.
ABF Regional Investigations NSW A/g Superintendent John Fleming said it was a significant result he hoped would act as a deterrent to those thinking of exploiting Australia’s native wildlife.
“These lizards are beautiful animals and it is obvious why they are appealing to wildlife smugglers. But the reality is they are a protected species, and the ABF will continue to do everything in our power to stop these criminal syndicates from exploiting them,” A/g Superintendent Fleming said.
“The criminals involved in these operations have little regard for the animals’ welfare, which is why our officers work hard to stop this incredibly cruel trade.
“The community can also help us target these individuals – so I really encourage anyone with any information about the illegal removal of reptiles or who notice anything suspicious to contact the ABF’s Borderwatch at australia.gov.au/borderwatch.”
The maximum penalty for this offence is 10 years’ imprisonment or a fine of $210,000, or both.
Shingleback Lizards are a protected species and are often targeted by wildlife smugglers because of their unique markings, which mean they attract a hefty price tag in some overseas markets.