A 23-year-old Narre Warren man was convicted and fined $5000 in the Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday after pleading guilty for his role in attempting to send native wildlife to Hong Kong.

The court heard that the man hid Shingleback and Blue-tongued lizards in socks and wrapped them in tape to prevent them from moving, before placing them inside boxes which also contained children’s toys, chips and biscuits.

He then attempted to post them to Hong Kong from a number of post offices in Narre Warren, Lynbrook, Hampton Park, Hallam and Pakenham between June and October 2018.

The reptiles were detected through x-ray imaging and were seized by Australia Post and Australia Border Force Officers at the Melbourne Gateway postal facility.

He plead guilty to charges of unlawful possession of wildlife and importing wildlife from NSW under the Wildlife Act 1975.

The man is alleged to be part of an illegal reptile smuggling ring that attempted to sell native lizards on the black market overseas. The ring was busted in March 2019 following raids carried out across Melbourne.

More than 150 lizards have been seized since the brazen operation was discovered in June 2018, with a total estimated street value of more than $550,000.

Under the Wildlife Act 1975 there are various penalties associated with taking, disposing of or being in possession of protected wildlife, with a maximum penalty of $38,685 and/or 24 months imprisonment.  

To report any information, contact Crime Stoppers anonymously by calling 1800 333 000, or online at crimestoppersvic.com.au/report-a-crime.

Quotes attributable to Manager Major Operations and Investigations Iain Bruce:

“This is an incredibly cruel trade and it’s disturbing that this type of activity is happening.”

“This case has sent a clear message that the Victorian Government has a zero-tolerance approach to the illegal trade of wildlife.”

“We will continue to work with our partners to investigate and bring to justice those who choose to profit from the illegal sale of protected wildlife.”