Creepy crawly cargo caught out

A biosecurity sneaker has been sprung attempting to smuggle a dangerous combination of live reptiles and arachnids in a box marked ‘2 pair shoes’.

Australian Border Force (ABF) officers in Melbourne x-rayed an international mail consignment from Northern Europe on 14 March and saw there were reptiles, and consulted biosecurity staff from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

A plethora of live reptiles and arachnids was uncovered, including six venomous vipers and two of what is believed to be the world’s third–largest tarantula.

These pose a high biosecurity risk to Australia because they can carry pests and diseases that aren’t present here, potentially affecting our human, animal and plant health, along with our agricultural industries.

The consignment included:

  • Three ball pythons, also known as royal pythons
  • two hognose snakes
  • six vipers, identified as Wagler’s temple vipers— a venomous pitviper species native to South-East Asia
  • two Colombian giant tarantulas
  • five Mexican redknee tarantulas
  • two Brazilian salmon pink tarantulas— considered to be the third largest tarantula in the world 
  • four Asian forest scorpions

ABF Regional Commander Victoria, James Watson, said the detection was a great example of Australia’s border security processes.

“It just goes to show you no two days are the same for ABF officers,” Commander Watson said.

“We are always finding new and unusual things that people are trying to smuggle into the country.

“Whether it be drugs, firearms, illicit tobacco or in this case snakes and spiders, our officers are well trained to identify anything suspicious coming across the border.”

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ Deputy Secretary responsible for biosecurity, Lyn O’Connell, said Australia has strict rules governing how animals can be brought into the country.

“This detection appears to be a clear attempt to get around the rules that are in place to protect us all,” Ms O’Connell said.

“No spider is a match for our biosecurity web, we get our tails up when there are scorpions in the mail and if you try send exotic snakes—beware if we find intentional non-compliance, we bite back with the full force of the law.

“The department works around the clock to enforce Australia’s strict biosecurity border controls—12 million mail items and four million passengers were screened in the 2015-16 financial year, along with the assessment of 1 million cargo consignments.

“This resulted in 3,500 infringement notices and the uncovering of a range of items that posed a risk to Australian biosecurity, including plants and seeds, whole fresh fish, dried lizards, frogs and spiders.

“Anyone who claims to be an animal lover and conceals reptiles or arachnids in small packages and sends them through the mail does not have the best interests of the animals—or Australia—at heart.”

Fortunately, our biosecurity system has protected Australians from this scary box of scales, fangs, legs, stingers, hair and tails.

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