By Caitlin Rumac
One of the Blue Tongue lizards seized at the border by ABF officers in a joint operation with the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
to disrupt an illegal wildlife smuggling syndicate.Source: The Australian Border Force Image Library
A 35-year-old woman has been sentenced to a year in jail for attempting to mail native lizards from Australia to Hong Kong.
The Malaysian national pled guilty in the Perth Magistrates Court on Friday to four counts of attempting to export 21 native reptiles, including blue tongued and shingleback lizards, to Hong Kong through Australia Post in 2018.
Federal environment minister Sussan Ley said the sentence sends a strong and clear message that people will be caught if they attempt to smuggle wildlife.
Officials say the woman is part of a broader investigation by the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment to identify and stop smuggling of native Wildlife.
The conviction comes after a string of similar Australian Border Force (ABF) interceptions of lizards, which were often wrapped in masking tape and sold on the black market.
In 2019, Chinese national King Chuen Chong was handed a 15-month prison sentence following his attempts to smuggle Australian lizards to Hong Kong in children’s toys and chip containers.
Earlier this year, a 27-year-old Japanese woman was sentenced to four months in prison following the discovery of 19 stolen lizards in her suitcase at Melbourne airport.
“Our Australian wildlife is highly sought after on the international black market, but my department and their fellow agencies are carrying out ongoing surveillance operations to catch anyone who seeks to profit through exploitation of our native species,” Ms Ley said.
The current operation has recovered 129 reptiles from 24 mail parcels with investigations ongoing.
“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,” said ABF regional commander for NSW Danielle Yannopoulos.
Wildlife smuggling carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $210,000.