Man sentenced for illegally possessing wildlife

19 April 2021

A house at Greystanes in Sydney’s west was assessed to be an extreme biosecurity risk and had to be chemically treated after numerous species of tortoises, turtles, lizards, salamanders and a freshwater crocodile were found living inside the premises.

An investigation led to the arrest and Friday’s sentencing of a 29-year-old Sydney man for dealing in protected animals, possessing regulated live species from unlawful import and possessing non-native species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Reece Elson was sentenced at Parramatta Local Court to 12 months imprisonment to be served as an intensive correction order including 100 hours of community service.

The sentencing of Elson follows a joint investigation between Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment investigators and the NSW Police Force’s Strike Force Raptor into a criminal syndicate involved in the smuggling of Australian native wildlife.

During the execution of a search warrant on the 27 June 2019 at Elson’s residence, Environmental Crime Investigators recovered 144 native, non-native and CITES-listed reptiles, including numerous species of tortoises, turtles, lizards, salamanders and a freshwater crocodile.

The reptiles were housed in tanks throughout the house, in a bath and in numerous ponds in the backyard with skeletal turtle remains located in a garage on the property.

Elson is the second person sentenced in relation to this operation. On 11 December 2020, Buddy Pogmore was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment with a non-parole period of 18 months for attempting to export Australian native reptiles.

A third accused, is currently in custody awaiting trial in relation to this case.

Wildlife crime is a global issue that is increasingly recognised as a specialised area of organised crime.

Australia has strong laws in place to regulate the possession and dealing in wildlife to protect native species and to meet our international obligations under CITES.

Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 it is an offence to possess non-native specimen without a permit. Each wildlife offence carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment or a $222,000 fine.

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