One man has been deported and others face wildlife trafficking charges after an illegal shipment of Australian lizards packed in rice cookers was intercepted at a Queensland mail distribution centre.
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service were alerted to the smuggling attempt after Australia Post officers conducted X-rays on brand new rice cookers bound for China which showed “unexplainable shadows”.
“When QPWS wildlife officers dismantled the rice cookers and inspected them, a number of juvenile lizards were located in the electronic compartments,” QPWS wildlife southern operations coordinator Warren Christensen said in a statement on Thursday.
The reptiles included an albino blue tongue, bearded dragons and shingleback lizards which had been placed inside socks or cloth packaging, with elastic binding their legs to their bodies, preventing them from moving.
Mr Christensen said the lizards are highly desired for their beauty and unique traits and are worth thousands on the international black market.
“Thankfully these animals did not make it onto the black market, but they cannot be released into the wild because we don’t know where they were captured or if they were exposed to disease,” he said.
“They will spend the rest of their days in captivity, taking part in breeding programs and educating the public about the illegal trade of wildlife.”
A 28-year-old Taiwanese man was arrested in Victoria and charged with 67 offences, including aggravated cruelty to an animal.
He was sentenced to six-months in prison before being deported.
Wildlife trafficking can result in 10 years imprisonment and fines up to $210,000 fine.