Australia Arrests 4; Rescues Hundreds of Native Lizards Bound for Hong Kong

Опубликовано: 09 Январь 2024

Australian Blue Tongue LizardAustralian lizards and reptiles are illegally trafficked to other countries in small and poorly maintained containers. (Photo: Robin Hutton, Flickr, License)

A specialized squad in New South Wales, Australia, arrested four people and saved hundreds of native lizards and reptiles from being illegally exported by the group to Hong Kong, police announced Monday.

After nine packages containing nearly 60 live lizards were intercepted en route to Hong Kong in September last year, Australian authorities formed a special unit that began investigating such exports with assistance from the Federal Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment, and Water and the New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment.

The effort bore fruit. Between December last year and the first days of January 2024, the unit arrested the four suspects at different locations and at different times. They now face charges of participation in a criminal syndicate, export of regulated native specimens without a permit/exemption for profit.

During several raids and package interceptions, 257 lizards and reptiles were found in poor condition and confined in small bags or boxes ready to be shipped, according to authorities. Officers took the animals to zoos and wildlife centers for vet examination before being released back to the wild.

The total value of the reptiles seized during this operation is approximately AUD 1.2 (over US$805,000), according to the authorities.

Australian native lizards and other native species are often trafficked to other countries in small and poor containers. They have even been found in chocolate boxes and chip tubes.

“We have almost 900 native reptile species, of which more than 90% exist nowhere else (such as blue-tongue lizards, water dragons, and red-bellied black snakes), so they continue to be our most trafficked Australian native live animal,” Crime Stoppers Australia claim.

“Illegal wildlife trafficking is incredibly stressful on the animals. They face extremes of temperature, asphyxiation, dehydration, starvation, and trauma. And while many animals don’t survive the trip, the high prices commanded by those animals that do survive means traffickers can easily cover the losses,” the organization said.