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Man carrying 4000 insects was itching to leave Perth

March 23, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

They are used to dealing with drug smugglers, ivory smugglers and rare animal smugglers, but Australia’s hardworking airport defenders now have to watch out for a the latest buzz – insect smugglers.

It’s enough to make you break out in a rash.

A Czech national has been fined AUD 2000 for attempting to smuggle thousands of insects onto a flight out of Australia.

On 20 February 2017, the man was boarding a flight from Perth to Abu Dhabi when he was selected by the Australian Border Force (ABF) officers for a baggage examination.

Native Australian insects such as these are highly sought after overseas

ABF officers examined the bags and found a total of 4226 insects, 27 spiders, and seven scorpions. They were seized (not too forcibly, hopefully) and forwarded to the Western Australian Museum for assessment.

Given that the man was detained while boarding, it would seem he intended to take the insects into the plane’s cabin with him. What would have happened if they got loose? There could be a wild movie plot in that.

The insects were housed in a series of plastic boxes, ziplock bags and 250-500ml plastic bottles. Most specimens were packed in wood shavings infused with ethyl acetate, with the exception of a small sample of moths and butterflies, which were housed in wax paper envelopes in a plastic box.

All insects were identified by entomologists as Australian species including 19 beetles of the family Buprestidae which are listed as specially protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act of Western Australia. Buprestidae are more commonly known as jewel beetles or metallic wood-boring beetles because of their glossy iridescent colours.

An investigation into the man’s background revealed he had a keen interest in insects and indications were that he had collected and exported insects from a variety of countries all over the world.

The man was arrested and charged with offences under the Environment Protection and Bio-diversity Conservation Act 1999.

Native Australian insects such as these are highly sought after overseas. They can be sold to museums and collectors for a tidy profit. The ABF has an important role in protecting Australia’s native wildlife from falling prey to unscrupulous smugglers.

The ATSB advises that posting animals in packages and secreting them in luggage is not only illegal but cruel and inhumane. Many animals smuggled in this way do not survive.

The man appeared in Perth Magistrates Court on 17 March 2017.

Written by Peter Needham

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