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Nabbed: iguanas on cruise ship and orangutan in suitcase

March 28, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

A cruise passenger is facing charges in Sydney after allegedly attempting to smuggle endangered iguanas into Australia aboard his cruise ship; while at Bali’s international airport in Denpasar, police have rescued a two-year-old orangutan from a rattan basket as a tourist tried to smuggle it out of the country.

The two cases, while unconnected, illustrate the problems animals face around the world, with humans encroaching on their habitats, hunting, poaching and smuggling.

Orangutans, among the most intelligent primates, are listed as critically endangered from poaching, habitat destruction and the illegal pet trade.

Now police in Bali have arrested a Russian tourist attempting to smuggle a drugged orangutan out of Indonesia in his suitcase.

The man said he wanted to take the animal home and keep it as a pet.

Drugged orangutan asleep in basket at Bali airport

Police found the suspect was also carrying two live geckos and five lizards in the suitcase, along with pills believed to have been used to drug the animals. The 27-year-old Russian, who packed baby formula and blankets for the orangutan, claimed he was given the orangutan by another Russian tourist, a friend who bought the animal for USD 3000 at a Java street market.

MEANWHILE, in the other case, Australian Border Force (ABF) maritime officers conducted a raid on a cruise ship in Sydney, where a 49-year-old Australian passenger was allegedly found to be in possession of two live Fijian Banded Iguanas.

The iguanas were referred to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to assess the biosecurity risks.

ABF Investigators subsequently attended and interviewed the man, who they will allege acquired the reptiles during a stop in Vanuatu.

ABF Regional Investigations NSW acting superintendent John Fleming said the ABF would continue to work with its partners to stop the impact wildlife-related crime can have on global biodiversity.

Iguanas seized from cruise ship passenger in Sydney

“Sadly, there are people in Australia who are prepared to pay large sums of money for exotic and rare wildlife products – but these people should know we are alert to their activities,” Fleming said.

“These iguanas are beautiful animals and it’s obvious why they are appealing to wildlife smugglers. Working with our partners, the ABF will continue to do all we can to put a stop to this cruel trade.”

Acting Head of Biosecurity Operations at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Mark Simpson, said illegal imports of exotic animals can introduce devastating pests and diseases and, as such, pose a significant biosecurity risk to Australia.

“Our biosecurity officers worked closely with our ABF colleagues throughout this detection to ensure the significant biosecurity risks were managed.

“Any breach of Australia’s biosecurity is a serious matter and this is another example of effective collaboration between our agencies to stop potential biosecurity threats at our border.”

Offences relating to the importation of CITES listed wildlife under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of up to AUD 210,000. Offences under the Biosecurity Act 2015 will also be considered.

Written by Peter Needham

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