‘Wildlife smugglers’ caught with 13 native lizards in luggage

TWO Japanese men have been charged after allegedly trying to smuggle more than a dozen native bobtail lizards out of Australia in their luggage.

The men, aged 28 and 51, were detained at Perth International Airport on Wednesday after allegedly trying to board separate flights to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur with the animals in their luggage.

It’s alleged 13 bobtail lizards were found packed inside netted laundry bags which were wrapped in towels inside two plastic containers in the older man’s check-in suitcase.


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Source: Australian Border Force

Border Force officers also allegedly found empty laundry bags and plastic containers in the younger man’s baggage, as well as photos on his mobile phone of shingleback lizards and what appears to be one of the two containers of lizards.

While all of the lizards in the older man’s luggage were alive, none had access to food or water and some appeared to be in poor health.

It’s alleged the men are part of a much larger 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.

The lizards are known to sell for up to $10,000 each on the international black market.

Source: Australian Border Force

Source: Australian Border Force

The 51-year-old has been charged with attempting to export a regulated native specimen, and subjecting the lizards to cruel treatment, contrary to the Environment Protection and Bio-diversity Conservation ACT 1999.

The younger man is charged with aiding and abetting the attempted export.

Both men were remanded in custody overnight and due to appear in Perth Magistrates Court today.

The 28-year-old arrived in Australia, via Brisbane, in May, while the 51-year-old arrived in Perth last Monday.

Source: Australian Border Force

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 additional charges under the Western Australian Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.

The ABF Superintendent of Enforcement Operations in WA, Clint Sims, said the ABF works closely with its state and federal partners to detect, disrupt and investigate those involved in this cruel trade.

“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,” Superintendent Sims said.

“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.

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 or the Wildcare Helpline on 9474 9055.

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