Raids carried out across Melbourne last week busted an illegal reptile smuggling ring attempting to sell Australian lizards on the black market overseas.
The operation was discovered in June 2018 by Australia Post and Australian Border Force. Since then, more than 150 lizards have been seized, with a total estimated street value of more than $550,000.
The smuggling syndicate was attempting to send the wildlife to China and Hong Kong, concealed inside toys, chip containers, powdered chocolate tins, deep-fryers and rice cookers.
Most of the reptiles have been rehoused to local sanctuaries, schools and zoos. Sadly, 12 of the smuggled reptiles died following their ordeal, either from suffocation or trauma.
Under the Wildlife Act 1975 there are various penalties associated with taking, disposing of or being in possession of protected wildlife, with a maximum penalty of $38,685 and/or 24 months imprisonment. Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 the maximum penalty for cruelty is $40,297.50 and/or 12 months imprisonment.
Minister for Environment Lily D’Ambrosio called it a “very disturbing case”. The reptiles were taken from the wild and treated completely inhumanely.
“Such sickening abuse of animals will not be tolerated in Victoria,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.
To report any information, contact Crime Stoppers anonymously by calling 1800 333 000, or online at crimestoppersvic.com.au/report-a-crime.