In the last three months alone, Australian Border Force (ABF) officers have stopped a total of 20 separate consignments containing more than 110 reptiles from being illegally exported overseas.
Officers intercepted a total of eight consignments in July, with six consignments intercepted in one week alone in boxes labelled as toys, kids and baby clothing and shoes, school bag and bags of chips.
Another eight detections were made in August containing approximately 40 reptiles, and in September there were four detections containing 38 reptiles.
The international mail parcels were mainly posted from Melbourne or Sydney and were destined for China, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Russia.
The native species included shingleback lizards, eastern spiny tailed skinks, geckos, blue tongue lizards and gidgee skins. Some reptiles were found stuffed in socks within cereal and chip boxes, others had their legs taped together.
ABF Acting Assistant Commissioner Craig Palmer said these detections should demonstrate to would-be wildlife smugglers that Australian authorities are alert to these illicit activities.
“Wildlife smuggling is a lucrative trade and we know individuals and criminal syndicates can make significant profits by exporting and selling Australia’s unique native fauna overseas, particularly in Asia,” A/g Assistant Commissioner Palmer said.
“The ABF is committed to protecting Australian wildlife and works closely with state and federal agencies to detect, disrupt and investigate those involved in this cruel trade.
“We are working with our colleagues at Australia Post, industry, consumer groups, as well as federal and state environment agencies, to increase our ability to identify who is involved and where they are sending these animals.”
“If successfully exported, these animals are fed into illicit markets that are of significant interest to law enforcement overseas, particularly in Asia. Working with our partners throughout the region is a key part of our strategy in combatting this issue.”
The detections have been referred to relevant state and federal agencies for further investigation.
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.
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.