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Anything to declare? You’ve got to be kidding!

April 10, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Smugglers of bizarre consignments of deadly snakes and giant tarantulas appear to be resorting to the postal service in an attempt to avoid being sprung by Customs when searched at airports.

Australian Border Force (ABF) officers are assigned to cover both airports and the mail service. Those in Melbourne X-rayed an international mail consignment from Northern Europe recently, a box marked “2 pair shoes”.

Instead of shoes, they identified a dangerous combination of live reptiles and arachnids. They consulted biosecurity staff from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and a search uncovered a plethora of live reptiles and arachnids, including six venomous vipers and two of what’s believed to be the world’s third-largest tarantula spider, which can attain a leg-size of up to 28cm.

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 bird-eating tarantulas – considered to be the third largest tarantula in the world;
  • Four Asian forest scorpions.

These pose a high biosecurity risk to Australia. Quite apart from the risks they pose in their own right, they can also carry pests and diseases that aren’t present here, potentially affecting Australia’s human, animal and plant health, along with the country’s agricultural industries.

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,” he 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,” she 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 3500 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.

Edited by Peter Needham

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