A Gisborne man has been found guilty of reptile smuggling after Italian customs discovered live Australian lizards inside a speaker.
Craig James Pender has been fined $2000 and convicted for illegally exporting Australian reptiles and for unlawfully importing and possessing exotic reptiles.
A joint investigation by the federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, the federal Department of the Environment and Energy and the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning into the smuggling was sparked when Italian customs intercepted 13 native Australian reptiles in May, 2013.
Five blue-tongued lizards, four spiny tailed skinks and four shingleback lizards were found hidden in socks, concealed within an audio speaker.
A subsequent raid at Mr Pender’s property found three illegally imported hognosed snakes, said the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources acting head of compliance Robyn Cleland.
“Our investigation also identified links between Mr Pender and a person of interest in Norway – Bard Alexander Meringen –ultimately leading to the arrest of Mr Meringen for wildlife crimes and seizure of over 200 live reptiles at his residence in Norway,” Dr Cleland said.
“Mr Pender’s irresponsible actions placed our national wildlife, environment and industries at great risk. Exotic animals can introduce devastating pests and diseases to Australia.”
Mr Pender faced Kyneton Magistrates Court on July 4.
Anyone with information about breaches of Australia’s biosecurity requirements should phone 1800 803 006.