TWO men could spend two years in prison and be forced to cough up almost $400,000 in fines after they allegedly kidnapped an echidna from the bush and kept it as a pet at their house in Queensland.
Police uncovered the protected animal while carrying out a drug raid on a property near Marburg, in the Lockyer Valley, on Thursday, August 17.
Officers also allegedly found a carpet python – also protected Nature Conservation Act 1992 – drugs, and a number of weapons, including four ‘pen guns’ and a shortened .22 rifle.
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Wildlife officers from the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection were called in to remove both the protected animals and move them to a safe facility.
It is hoped the echidna will be able to be released back into the wild soon.
In Queensland, it is an offence under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 to keep a protected animal.
Environment Minister Steven Miles said stealing an echidna carried the highest penalty someone could receive for a wildlife-related crime in Queensland.
“Stealing an echidna from its natural habitat is considered a Class 1 offence against section 88 of the Nature Conservation Act and carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison or a fine of $378,450,” Mr Miles said.
“Thankfully, due to the great teamwork between Queensland Police Service and our wildlife officers, this echidna has been moved to a safe facility, with the aim of releasing it back into the wild where it belongs.”
The Environment Minister said the aim in these situations was always to release the protected animals into the wild.
“But this may not be possible if there is a risk of the animals spreading diseases into wild populations, or where the original source of the animals in unknown,” Mr Miles said.
“Unfortunately in this case, the re-releasing of this snake is not an option, but we hope the echidna can be rehabilitated.”
Two men aged 29 and 30 have since been charged with a list of serious weapon and drug offences, along with offences relating to the restriction on keeping or using a protected class 1 and class 4 animal.
They’ll both appear in the Ipswich Magistrates Court on September 13.
“We believe this is the first time a person has been charged in Queensland for keeping a class 1 protected animal under the Nature Conservation Act,” Detective Inspector Lance Vercoe said.
“Our officers are certainly used to locating weapons and drugs, but this was certainly a surprise for them.”
Members of the public are encouraged to report incidents of wildlife related crime or incidences where they believe wildlife related crime has occurred.
If you witness or suspect an offence to wildlife, you can notify the department via a wildlife complaint form.
Reports can also be made to EHP by ringing 1300 130 372 or through Crime Stoppers.