A 27-year-old Japanese national has been arrested at Melbourne’s International Airport allegedly attempting to smuggle 19 native lizards out of the country in her suitcase.
Australian Boarder Force officers apprehended the woman as she attempted to depart for Japan after receiving a tip-off from ABF’s network in Hong Kong.
Authorities will allege an x-ray of the woman’s suitcase and subsequent examination revealed 17 shingle back lizards and two blue tongue lizards tightly packed inside two mesh packages.
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 caught in the wild.
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 Ms Gavens said.
The woman did not apply for bail and will appear in the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court tomorrow.
The maximum penalty for these offences is 10 years imprisonment or a fine of $210,000.
DELWP is continuing to liaise with the ABF & Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecution about additional wildlife and cruelty charges related to the alleged offences,” Ms Gavens said.
This latest detection comes after a 45-year-old Japanese national was arrested at Perth Airport on November 8, and a 46-year-old Japanese national was arrested at Sydney Airport on February 5. Both were carrying 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 Cdr Grosse said.