A Highton man has been convicted and fined for failing to provide adequate food, water and shelter for a large collection of wildlife.

At the Geelong Magistrates’ Court today, the man pleaded guilty to five charges, including cruelty, aggravated cruelty, unlawful possession of wildlife, failing to notify a change of address and failing to keep accurate records.

In July 2016, Wildlife Officers from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) were called to a Highton property after police discovered the collection during a callout.

DELWP Program Manager of Compliance Operations Mark Breguet said: “Officers found 260 animals, including two small fresh water crocodiles, frogs, snakes and lizards, at the property.”

“Almost half of the animals at the address were in poor condition or deceased,” Mr Breguet said.

“Zoos Victoria veterinary staff attended the address and assessed all live animals.

“While some of the seized animals were rehabilitated by specialist reptile vets and re-housed by DELWP, many did not respond to treatment and have since died.”

The man was convicted and fined $5,000 plus costs of $15,095.67. He was also disqualified from owning protected wildlife for five years.

DELWP regulates wildlife licensing in Victoria, including issuing licences to keep and trade captive-bred native wildlife. A Private Wildlife Licence authorises the holder to possess, keep, breed, buy, sell and dispose of wildlife listed in the Wildlife Regulations 2013. A Code of Practice applies to the private keeping of reptiles to help protect the welfare of animals.

Mr Breguet said while large collections of captive-bred wildlife are allowed under licence, there are strict conditions that must be met.

“Despite holding a DELWP wildlife licence at the time, the owner failed to meet the Code of Practice, which is in place to protect the welfare of animals.

“With the privilege of keeping wildlife comes the responsibility for the animal’s health and welfare.

“This result sends a strong message to the community that serious penalties apply to licence holders who fail to provide adequate food, water and shelter for wildlife in their care.

“We urge members of the public to report any suspected cases of wildlife cruelty, unlicensed possession and trade, and anyone who takes wildlife from the wild.

“All information is treated as confidential and reports can be made anonymously.”

To make a report, call DELWP on 136 186.