A Japanese man has been nabbed at Perth Airport allegedly trying to smuggle six native bobtail lizards out of Australia.
He was planning to catch a flight to Hong Kong on Thursday when an X-ray of his check-in suitcase allegedly spotted the reptiles wrapped in a paper towel and tightly packed inside a cloth bag.
Three lizards were allegedly taken from Rottnest Island, one from the Mid West region and two from Perth.
Some were kept in hessian bags for up to eight days with no food and little water, Australian Border Force says.
The 45-year-old man was charged with attempting to export a regulated native specimen while subjecting the lizards to cruel treatment.
Parks and Wildlife Service, which provided the tip-off to the ABF, is also expected to lay charges.
The maximum penalty for wildlife trade offences is 10 years’ jail and a fine of up to $210,000 for individuals.
ABF WA regional commander Rod O’Donnell said wildlife smuggling was a lucrative trade and WA bobtails could fetch up to $10,000 on the international black market.
“Individuals and organised criminal syndicates can make significant profits by exporting and selling Australia’s unique native fauna overseas, particularly in Asia,” he said.
Parks and Wildlife Service officer Matt Swan said smuggling native wildlife was cruel and inhumane.
“Reptiles are often smuggled for extended periods of time without food or water, in extremes of temperature and generally in confined spaces,” he said.
The animals were checked by Perth Zoo vets and will be released back into the wild if possible.