Hefty jail sentence for illegal export of reptiles

24 May 2021

A 35-year-old Sydney man has been handed a lengthy jail sentence for the attempted illegal export of Australian native reptiles.

Jie Chen was sentenced to 3 years and 6 months imprisonment with a non-parole period of 2 years and 3 months at Parramatta District Court.

Between July 2015 and May 2018, Chen, an Aquarium retail business owner and licenced reptile keeper, imported reptiles from Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia for the purpose of international sale.

The offender then attempted to illegally export two concealed packages containing 23 reptiles in total to Hong Kong.

The parcels contained an array of Australian regulated species including Shingleback lizards, Blue-tongue lizards, Smooth knob-tailed geckos and Western Pilbara spiny-tailed skinks.

The 2 parcels were intercepted at the Sydney Gateway Facility which trigged an extensive investigation by Environmental Crime Investigators from the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment.

Wildlife trafficking is a highly lucrative trade which involves the inhumane treatment and callous disregard for the health and wellbeing of the reptiles or species involved.

Native Australian reptiles are highly sought after overseas, notably, there has been an increase in the number of overseas-based pet shops that exclusively sell Australian reptiles.

Australia has strong laws in place to regulate illegal activity, protecting native species while meeting international obligations under Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 it is an offence to export native specimens without a permit.

Each wildlife offence carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment or a $222,000 fine.

Anyone with information about trade in illegal wildlife or wildlife products is encouraged to contact investigations@environment.gov.au or 02 6274 1900.