SYDNEY, April 24 — A Japanese national has appeared in court on Wednesday, after being detained at Melbourne International Airport allegedly attempting to smuggle 19 lizards out of Australia in her suitcase.
According to the Australian Border Force (AFB), the 27-year-old woman was targeted following a tip-off from the agency’s international network which has been on high alert recently after two other similar cases involving Japanese nationals.
Last November, a 45-year-old man was apprehended at Perth Airport and in February, a 46-year-old man was also arrested trying to fly out of Sydney.
Both were carrying tightly packed Australian reptiles in their luggage.
“This is a significant result, which I hope will act as a deterrent to those thinking of exploiting Australia’s native wildlife,” ABF Investigations Commander Graeme Grosse said.
“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.”
“This is an incredibly cruel trade and the ABF will continue to do whatever we can to stop it.”
The reptiles seized in Melbourne, which included 17 Shingleback lizards and two Blue Tongues, were handed over to the Victorian State Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).
“They will be checked by a Vet and donated to schools and other not-for-profit organizations if they can’t be returned to the wild after the finalization of the legal processes,” DELWP Chief Conservation Regulator Kate Gavens said.
If found guilty, the alleged smuggler could face a maximum penalty of 10-year imprisonment. – XINHUA