Operation Barcoo nets offender accused of trafficking Australian lizards

20 September 2018

(Issued by Department of the Environment and Energy)

An investigation targeting the illicit trade of wildlife led by the Department of Environment and Energy has resulted in the arrest of a 23-year-old Chatswood man attempting to post live lizards overseas.

Operation Barcoo involved investigators from the Department’s Office of Compliance conducting surveillance at a Sydney post office earlier this week and intercepting a package that contained six live lizards.

Five gidgee skinks and one unidentified lizard were found inside plastic chip tubes, wrapped in paper towel and with their legs taped with brown paper. The package was destined for Hong Kong.

The accused was apprehended outside the post office by departmental officers and arrested by NSW police. He was charged with 11 counts of attempting to export a regulated native specimen.

Operation Barcoo began in early August when an international mail item bound for Hong Kong was intercepted by Australian Border Force and Australia Post staff.

That consignment was found to contain two shingleback lizards stowed in pillow cases inside cereal boxes.

The accused appeared in Hornsby Local Court on 18 September and was remanded on bail to appear in the Sydney Downing Centre on 2 October.

The Department’s Assistant Secretary for the Office of Compliance, Monica Collins, said, “This result has benefited from the long-standing joint co-operation between the Department of Environment and Energy, Australian Border Force and Australia Post.

“The Australian Government is serious about fighting wildlife trafficking, both in and out of Australia and officers from all agencies are working tirelessly to thwart this illicit trade.

“This is the second wildlife trafficker to appear before NSW courts in the past four weeks.”

Wildlife trafficking is a serious crime and is driving the decline of many species around the world.

The maximum penalty for wildlife trade offences under Australian law is 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $210,000 for individuals, or up to $1,050,000 for corporations.

Australia is a signatory to CITES and implements the Convention under its national environment law.

It is an offence to import a CITES specimen without the appropriate documentation, and to be in possession of an illegally imported specimen. Any information about trade in illegal wildlife or wildlife products should contact wildlifetrade.compliance@environment.gov.au or 02 6274 1900.

Images of the detected species are available from the Department. Contact Media: media@environment.gov.au