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Suspected lizard smuggler nabbed at Aussie airport

April 30, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Australian Border Force (ABF) officers at Melbourne International Airport have arrested a 27-year-old Japanese national for allegedly attempting to smuggle 19 native reptiles out of Australia in her suitcase – the latest in a series of Japanese tourists found with illicit lizards.

The woman was targeted by ABF Officers as she attempted to depart for Japan. The ABF and Department of the Environment and Energy acted on a tip from ABF’s international presence in Hong Kong.

Authorities alleged that an X-ray of the woman’s suitcase and subsequent examination revealed 17 Shingleback lizards and two Blue Tongue lizards tightly packed inside two mesh packages.

The woman was arrested and charged under section 303DD (1) of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

She did not apply for bail and was due to appear in the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court.

The maximum penalty for these offences is 10 years imprisonment or a fine of AUD 210,000.

The lizards were seized by ABF officers and referred to the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). DELWP Chief Conservation Regulator Kate Gavens said many of the seized reptiles had ticks attached to them, indicating they may have been wild animals that had been caught.

“They will be checked by a vet and donated to schools and other not-for-profit organisations if they can’t be returned to the wild after the finalisation of the legal processes,” Gavens said.

Free at last! The Shingleback lizards are released from captivity

“DELWP is continuing to liaise with the ABF and Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecution about additional wildlife and cruelty charges related to the alleged offences.”

This latest detection comes after a 45-year-old Japanese national was arrested at Perth Airport on 8 November, and a 46-year-old Japanese national was arrested at Sydney Airport on 5 February. Both had native Australian reptiles in their luggage.

ABF Investigations Commander Graeme Grosse said the detection showed the benefit of the high level of co-operation and information sharing between the ABF, through its offshore network and its international partners.

“Thanks to information provided by our international colleagues, we’ve now been able to foil three smuggling attempts across three states, all linked to the same syndicate,” Commander Grosse said.

“This is a significant result, which I hope will act as a deterrent to those thinking of exploiting Australia’s native wildlife. This is an incredibly cruel trade and the ABF will continue to do whatever we can to stop it.

“But the community can also help us target these individuals – so I really encourage anyone with any information about the illegal removal of reptiles or who notice anything suspicious to contact the ABF’s Borderwatch at,” Commander Grosse said.

Can you spot the lizards? ABF officers found 19 lizards in a Japanese woman’s luggage at Melbourne Airport as she attempted to leave Australia.

The ABF and the Department of the Environment and Energy are working together to investigate this and other syndicates to ensure the penalties match the seriousness of the crime, and to make sure international organised crime groups can’t keep the profits from illegal wildlife trade.

Edited by Peter Needham

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