Woman charged with exporting Australian reptiles

The Hon Sussan Ley MP, Minister for the Environment

The Hon Jason Wood MP, Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs

A Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment investigation has stopped the shipment of 21 Australian native reptiles via Australia Post to Hong Kong as part of an ongoing investigation into wildlife trafficking.

A 35-year-old Malaysian national faces charges on four counts of attempting to export regulated native specimens which carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $210,000 ($1,050,000 for a corporation) under s303DD of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act 1999).

The woman was arrested earlier today by Australian Border Force investigators on behalf of the department. The animals were retrieved safely and have been released to local zoos.

Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley said the arrest was an important outcome at a time when illegal wildlife trade and animal markets are under the international spotlight.

“Our Australian wildlife is highly sought after on the international black market, but my department and their fellow agencies are carrying out ongoing surveillance operations to catch anyone who seeks to profit through exploitation of our native species,” Minister Ley said.

“Stopping illegal wildlife trade is a key government priority and this result sends a strong message that people will be caught if they attempt to smuggle wildlife.”

Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs, Jason Wood said the arrest reflects how closely federal agencies and departments are working together.

“This is yet another example of cruelty to Australian wildlife but it’s great to see government agencies putting a stop to this disgusting trade,” Assistant Minister Wood said.

The woman allegedly lodged a total of four parcels at various Australia Post outlets in NSW between April and May 2018.

Assistant Secretary of Environmental Compliance, Monica Collins, said the parcels were later intercepted at the Sydney Gateway Facility after X-ray examination indicated they may contain live animals.

“The reptiles were intended to be sent to Hong Kong with a total of 21 reptiles in those packages including shinglebacks and three different types of blue-tongue lizards,” Ms Collins said.

“This is the second arrest resulting from this investigation after a man was arrested in Sydney in late 2019 after the department executed search warrants with NSW Police and state environment agencies.”

The arrest is part of a broader operation to identify and stop exports of Australian wildlife using mail parcels. The operation involved a number of Australian government and state government agencies and has resulted in a total of 24 packages stopped at the border and the recovery of 129 native reptiles.

ABF Regional Commander for NSW, Danielle Yannopoulos, said wildlife smuggling is a serious offence and will not be tolerated.

“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,” Commander Yannopoulos said.

“The ABF remains committed to preventing the exploitation of Australian wildlife and is continuously working with our international partners to shut down illegal traffickers abroad.”

The woman was remanded in custody and is expected to appear before the Perth Magistrates Court tomorrow, Friday 8 May 2020.

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