A DARWIN man is facing the possibility of spending the next 10 years in jail after allegedly trying to ship the skulls and skeletons of a range of threatened and endangered animals to the United States.
The 33-year-old was arrested by border force officers on Tuesday following a near three-month-long investigation.
Authorities first became aware of the man’s activities after the skulls of a Red Tailed Black Cockatoo and a King Colobus Monkey were found in a parcel addressed to the USA on July 31.
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Two more skulls belonging to a straw necked ibis and an olive-backed baboon were allegedly found in a second parcel.
Following a protracted investigation, officers from the Australian Border Force and NT Parks, Wildlife and Heritage teamed up with NT Police and raided a property at Driver on Tuesday.
During the search, officers allegedly found the skulls and skeletons belonging to both Australian and non-native animals, some of which are listed on the Near Threatened and Endangered Species list.
Among the animals include ocelots, kangaroos, chipmunks, crocodiles, wombats, hornbills and wedged tail eagles, as well as dogs, fish, goats, ducks, chickens, and bearded dragons and other reptiles.
NT Parks, Wildlife and Heritage officers are still trying to identify many of the remains.
The man was arrested and charged under s303CC of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conversation Act 1999 and s66(2) and s67B of the Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act.
The 33-year-old was subsequently granted bailed and is due to appear in Darwin Magistrates Court in December.
Police say the man may be charged with further offences, pending the further identification of the remains.
The maximum penalty for illegal taking or possessing protected wildlife under the NT legislation is $77,500 or five years imprisonment. For threatened wildlife, the maximum penalty is $155,000 or 10 years imprisonment.
The maximum penalty for the Commonwealth offence is up to 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $210,000.
ABF Senior Investigator, Nathan Grant, said this week’s result demonstrated the effectiveness of a joint agency approach to protecting endangered species and Australian wildlife.
“Protecting Australia’s natural resources, including our native animals, from exploitation is an operational priority for the ABF, and we play a key role in locating and taking action against the unscrupulous operators in this illegal trade,” Senior Investigator Grant said.
“Like any unique commodity, Australian wildlife can fetch a high price overseas and is an attractive market for individuals and organised crime syndicates.”
Department of Tourism and Culture, Acting Director of Wildlife Operations, Parks, Wildlife and Heritage Division, Tracey Duldig, said the arrest was the product of months of close collaboration with the ABF.
“The taking and possession of illegal wildlife continues to be a threat to native animals,” Ms Duldig said.
“Wildlife is one of the three highest illegally traded commodities in the world and this joint investigation is an example of a coordinated approach to effectively tackle wildlife crime.”
Northern Territory Police Senior Sergeant Drew Slape said NT Police will continue to work in partnership with its law enforcement partners to detect, intercept and prosecute any persons engaged in the illegal hunting, trading or possession of our vulnerable protected wildlife.
Anyone can report suspicious behaviour or activity anonymously at border.gov.au/borderwatch.