Eastern Water Dragons concealed in a sock.A Taiwanese national has been sentenced to six-months jail following a ten-month investigation into the illegal possession and trafficking of hundreds of Australian native reptiles with the Magistrate labelling it as “atrocious conduct”.

The Department of Environment Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) worked with Australian Border Force, Department of Environment and Energy (DOEE) Australia Post and RSPCA Victoria on Operation Sheffield to investigate the case.

Magistrate Spillane said: “The offending was sophisticated, determined and calculated”.

DELWP Chief Conservation Regulator Kate Gavens said: “This result sends a strong message to the community about the importance DELWP places on protecting our iconic wildlife.”  

“We will continue to work with our partners to investigate and bring to justice those who choose to profit from the illegal sale of protected wildlife.”

“The Taiwanese national, was here on a temporary working visa and living in Hostel. The man was arrested in Melbourne by DELWP investigators on 23 January this year during a surveillance operation.”

“The man had concealed the lizards by packing them into socks inside rice cookers and deep fryers and posting them from Melbourne to addresses in Hong Kong.”

“The native lizards were detected and intercepted at the Australia Post Melbourne Gateway Facility with one Eastern Blue Tongue that was later euthanised due to irreparable damage to its limbs.”

The remainder of the seized animals were checked by vets and are in the care of DELWP or have been found new homes at schools or other not-for-profit institutions.

The man pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court to six charges under the Wildlife Act 1975 of possession and disposal of 33 Eastern Water Dragons, 17 Eastern Blue-Tongue Lizards and one Black Headed Monitor. He also pleaded to 61 charges under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 in relation to the same animals.

Crime Stoppers Victoria released four images of people DELWP would like to speak to in relation to other alleged offences involving reptiles being posted at the following post offices; Law Courts (William Street, Melbourne), Melbourne GPO (Elizabeth Street, Melbourne), Kew East (High Street, Kew) and Airport West (Westfield Airport West Shopping Centre).

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or on-line at https://www.crimestoppersvic.com.au/report-a-crime/