Lizards found hidden in rice cooker headed for China
One man has been deported and others face serious charges after Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) officers intercepted an illegal shipment of Australian lizards packed in rice cookers.
Authorities have seized nearly 80 lizards – some so rare they were “not known to science” – in a search of rice cookers bound for China.
Australia Post officers called in the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service after finding unexplainable shadows on the packages, which were later discovered to be up to 79 lizards with a street value of up to $US1 million ($A1.4 million).
Shocking footage from the find shows the reptiles hidden in the cookers in cloth bags, with elastic binding their legs to their bodies to stop them from moving.
QPWS wildlife southern operations co-ordinator Warren Christensen said among the lizards found was an albino blue tongue lizard and a western Pilbara shingleback.
“These animals, individually, are worth between $3000 and $5000 USD each, so there was between $750,000 and $1 million USD of potential street value for those animals,” he said.
The lizards were spread across six packages, all intercepted at the Brisbane International Mail Gateway Centre in 2018 and 2019.
Mr Christensen said the process of smuggling animals through international mail was “extremely cruel”.
“Not only are animals bound and packed tightly inside boxes, they have no access to food, water or clean air,” he said.
“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.
“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.”
After the packages were intercepted, 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 prison before he was deported.