Men foiled smuggling live lizards for black market

The rescued lizards. Picture: Supplied
The rescued lizards. Picture: Supplied

TWO Japanese men have been charged after a foiled attempt to smuggle live native bobtail lizards out of Australia for sale on the black market.

Australian Border Force officers stopped the men as they tried to board separate flights to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur from Perth International Airport yesterday.

An x-ray of the 51 year old’s check-in suitcase “revealed anomalies consistent with the concealment of wildlife” the ABF said today.

A total of 13 bobtails were found packed inside netted laundry bags which were wrapped in towels inside two plastic containers.

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

The 13 bobtails were packed inside netted laundry bags which were wrapped in towels inside two plastic containers. Picture: Supplied

While all of the lizards were alive, some appeared to be in poor health. There was no food or water inside the containers.

A 51-year old man has been charged with one count of attempting to export a regulated native specimen, and subjecting the lizards to cruel treatment.

A 28-year-old man has been charged with one count of aiding and abetting an attempt to export a regulated native specimen.

ABF Superintendent of Enforcement Operations in WA, Clint Sims, said the ABF worked 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.

The men were denied bail and were due to appear in Perth Magistrates’ Court today.

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.

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