Australian officials find live animals inside rice cookers destined for China

  • london
  • July 24, 2020
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One man has been deported and two more will face criminal charges after Australian officials found valuable live animals stashed inside rice cookers destined for China.

A senior wildlife management official for the state of Queensland said post office workers tipped off animal protection officers about the smuggling attempts in 2018 and 2019.

Warren Christensen said: “X-Rays conducted on brand new rice cookers bound for China by Australia Post revealed unexplainable shadows.

“When… wildlife officers dismantled the rice cookers and inspected them, a number of juvenile lizards were located in the electronic compartments.

Lizards bound for smuggling purposes (Australian Department of Environment and Science)

“The reptiles, which included an albino blue tongue, bearded dragons and shingleback lizards, had been placed inside socks or cloth packaging, with elastic binding their legs to their bodies, preventing them from moving.

“These attempts were sophisticated operations, with these reptiles worth thousands on the international black market.”

Mr Christensen said there was global demand for the lizards because of their beauty.

But he added: “Smuggling animals through international mail is extremely cruel. Not only are animals bound and packed tightly inside boxes, they have no access to food, water or clean air,” Mr Christensen 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 programmes and educating the public about the illegal trade of wildlife.”

An X-Ray image of one of the rice cookers (Australian Department of Environment and Science)

A 28-year-old Taiwanese man was arrested and charged with 67 offences, including aggravated cruelty to an animal. He was sentenced to six-months in prison before being deported.

Australia Post’s general manager for security Kevin Zuccato said he and his colleagues were proud to have busted the smuggling attempt.

He said: “Australia Post officers at our international mail distribution centres are trained to detect the illegal smuggling of native Australian animals during the X-Ray process.”

“We have helped intercept many wildlife smuggling attempts and our officers will continue to prevent illegal smuggling and ensure the perpetrators are caught.”