A 50 year old Broadmeadows man has been fined $4000 and ordered to pay $363 in legal costs to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) after pleading guilty in the Magistrates Court, with conviction, to 16 charges including the destruction of wildlife habitat, possessing wildlife taken from the wild, and animal cruelty.
DELWP Wildlife Officer, Phuong Tran, said: “Twenty reptiles, including Shingle-back Lizards, Central Bearded Dragons and Eastern Water Skinks, were discovered and seized along with husbandry equipment from his unlicensed premises.
“The man was caught lifting a rock at a granite outcrop nature conservation reserve, close to Bendigo, that is well-known as habitat for Thick-tailed Geckos, Tree Skinks and other reptiles.
“Reptiles use materials such as soil, stones and mosses for shelter. By lifting and displacing rocks, it can damage and destroy their habitat.
“Even small changes to the position of rocks can allow predators, such as snakes, to enter the shelter.
“Over thirty animals at two premises, including two Shingle-back lizards, Central bearded dragons, a Water Python, a Marbled Gecko, a Sand Goanna, nine Eastern Blue-tongued Lizards and two Large-striped Skinks, were found in unsanitary enclosures with no water.
“Although heat lamps and heat mats were found in some of the enclosures, none were found to be working.
“The breaches are serious and show a disregard for care of animals, the wildlife licensing system and the reptiles’ natural habitat.
Rodney Carter, Chief Executive Officer, Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation (DDWCAC) said: “Through our Recognition and Settlement Agreement with the State, we have been supporting DELWP Wildlife Officers since the start of this investigation.”
“It is a great example of DELWP working in partnership with DDWCAC to care for country and protect our natural environment and wildlife for all Victorians,” Mr Carter said.
The conviction aligns with DELWP’s state-wide Operation GRANITE which has been undertaken in response to an increase in reptiles being taken from the wild and associated damage to prime reptile habitat.
DELWP is reminding the community that native wildlife in Victoria, including birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, is protected by the Wildlife Act 1975 and it is illegal to take protected wildlife without an approval.
In Victoria, being convicted of offences under the Wildlife Act 1975 or the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 may affect a person’s ability to get or retain a licence to keep and trade wildlife.
The maximum penalties associated with taking and/or being in possession of unlawfully taken protected wildlife range from $7,750 - $37,000 and/or six to 24 months imprisonment. Disturbing, damaging or destroying wildlife habitat is also an offence with a maximum penalty of $7,750.