Two Japanese nationals, aged 51 and 28, have been arrested and charged by Australian Border Force (ABF) investigators following a foiled attempt to smuggle 13 native bobtail (or shingleback) lizards out of Australia.
ABF officers at Perth International Airport intercepted the men yesterday (5 June 2019) as they attempted to board separate flights to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
An x-ray of the 51 year old’s check-in suitcase revealed anomalies consistent with the concealment of wildlife.
It will be alleged a physical examination of the bag revealed the 13 bobtails packed inside netted laundry bags which were wrapped in towels inside two plastic containers.
While all of the lizards were alive, some appeared to be in poor health. There was no food or water inside the containers.
The 51 year old has been charged with the following offences:
•One count of attempting to export a regulated native specimen, namely 13 x shingleback lizards (Tiliqua Rugosa) contrary to section 303DD(1) of the Environment Protection and Bio-diversity Conservation Act 1999, read with section 11.1(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).
•One count of attempting to export a regulated native specimen, namely 13 x shingleback lizards (Tiliqua Rugosa), subjecting the lizards to cruel treatment contrary to section 303GP(2) of the Environment Protection and Bio-diversity Conservation Act 1999, read with section 11.1(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).
The 28 year old man has been charged with the following:
•One count of aiding and abetting an attempt to export a regulated native specimen, namely 13 x shingle back lizards (Tiliqua Rugosa) contrary to section 303DD(1) of the Environment Protection and Bio-diversity Conservation Act 1999, read with section 11.2(1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).
It will be alleged ABF officers found empty laundry bags and plastic containers in the younger man’s baggage similar to the ones used to conceal the lizards in the other man’s bag, as well as photos on his mobile phone of shingleback lizards and what appears to be one of the two containers of lizards.
The 28 year old arrived in Australia, via Brisbane, on 3 May, 2019. The 51 year old arrived in Perth last Monday (3 June 2019).
The men were denied bail and will appear in the Perth Magistrates Court today, 6 June 2019.
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.
Parks and Wildlife Service is expected to lay a number of charges under the Western Australian Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.
Australian bobtails can attract up to $10,000 each on the international black market.
The ABF Superintendent of Enforcement Operations in WA, Clint Sims, said the ABF works closely with its state and federal partners to detect, disrupt and investigate those involved in this cruel trade.
“It will be alleged the men arrested yesterday are part of an international wildlife smuggling syndicate, and are linked to three other Japanese nationals charged with similar offences in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth over the past six months,” Superintendent Sims 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.
“The ABF is doing all it can to prevent that from happening.”
Parks and Wildlife Service wildlife officer Karen Smith said 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,” she said.
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.