Updated February 16, 2015 18:01:23Photo: DPaW officer Kevin Morrison with a black-headed python, seized in an attempted trafficking attempt. (ABC News: Laura Gartry) Related Story: Crocodile thrown from car in wildlife smuggling bust: WA police
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Four foreigners have been charged over the attempted trafficking of hundreds of Western Australian native animals.
Two men from Russia and two from the Czech Republic were arrested at Perth International Airport by Customs officers on February 6.
The arrests followed the discovery of reptiles allegedly hidden in hollowed-out books and cigarette packets in packages posted from Carnarvon, Tom Price, Geraldton and Perth to Europe.
Two of the men also allegedly had reptiles hidden in their luggage at the airport.
There were 157 reptiles and amphibians in the haul, including skinks, geckos, frogs, pygmy pythons, a dead death adder, a number of invertebrates and 33 dead reptiles that appear to have been tagged for use as specimens.
The men face charges under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and Western Australia's Wildlife Conservation Act 1950.
These little fellas were going to suffer a fair bit of rough and tumble as they went through the post. It's cruel, we have already had 20 animals die already.Rick Dawson
Customs WA manager Vesna Watt warned the men faced significant penalties for attempting to export wildlife, if found guilty.
"These arrests should serve as a warning to those looking to illegally exploit Australia's natural fauna," she said.
"It's just purely just for economic gain, there is money to made.
"Customs and Border Protection takes these matters seriously and those caught could face up to 10 years in prison."
Ms Watt said they would be seeking jail terms for those involved.
'Cruel' practice where wildlife dies
During a separate Parks and Wildlife operation on February 5, a total of 92 reptiles were found at Broome, Derby and New South Wales post offices, and in a vehicle intercepted in Broome by WA Police.Photo: Reptiles were found hidden in hollowed-out books sent to destinations in Europe. (Supplied: DPaW)
Senior wildlife officer Rick Dawson said smuggling was a "cruel" practice.
"We had some Australians try and send from Broome to the eastern states an olive python, a black headed python and big frilled neck lizards," he said.
"So these little fellas were going to suffer a fair bit of rough and tumble as they went through the post.
"It's cruel, we have already had 20 animals die already. This is just not acceptable, this is Australia's fauna. We encourage people to visit, but let's look and not touch."
Mr Dawson said the value of the animals overseas from both hauls would be upwards of $200,000.
"You got places like Japan where blue tongue lizards fetch up to $10,000," he said.
"There is big money in our reptiles, and WA has more reptiles than any other state."
A West Australian man and two from NSW could face more than 90 charges over the Broome seizure under the Wildlife Conservation Act.
Mr Dawson said the two incidents represented a major breakthrough.
"Together, more than 240 native species have been prevented from leaving the state in the space of a week," Mr Dawson said.
"Posting animals in packages and secreting them in luggage is not only illegal but cruel and inhumane - more than 20 of the reptiles were either dead by the time these parcels were intercepted, or have since died."
WA's Environment Minister Albert Jacobs said new legislation would increase penalties against wildlife smugglers.
"This government has a clear commitment to significantly increase penalties through a new Conservation and Biodiversity Act, taking penalties which current sit between the $4,000-$10,000 mark up to $500,000 for those caught attempting to take our fauna," he said.
"Progress is underway on drafting. We will see legislation coming into Parliament in this term of government, that's our commitment."
First posted February 16, 2015 12:33:42
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