Australian Officials Discover Live Animals Inside Rice Cookers Destined For China's Black Market
Australian border officers have revealed how they intercepted a bunch of live animals being hidden inside rice cookers.
The machines were destined for China, with rumours they were going to be sold on the country's black market.
Inside the cookers, they found live lizards, including an albino blue tongue, bearded dragons and shingleback lizards.
It all kicked off when the packages wnt through standard X-ray screenings before they were permitted to be sent overseas. Postal workers saw some unusual shadows within the packages and alerted Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.
They were able to open the rice cookers and couldn't believe they were housing a bunch of live animals.
The lizards were wrapped in socks or cloth and 'with elastic binding their legs to their bodies, preventing them from moving'. Shockingly, they didn't have any access to food or water, which is baffling considering they were meant to survive the flight to China.
QPWS's wildlife southern operations coordinator Warren Christensen said it's a shocking case of animal cruelty.
"These attempts were sophisticated operations, with these reptiles worth thousands on the international black market," he said. "Smuggling animals through international mail is extremely cruel.
"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.
"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.
Australia Post's General Manager Group Security Kevin Zuccato said the organisation was proud to help prevent the lizards from being smuggled out of the country.
"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," Mr Zuccato said.
"We have helped intercept many wildlife smuggling attempts and our officers will continue to prevent illegal smuggling and ensure the perpetrators are caught."
Police have since arrested a 28-year-old Taiwanese man in Victoria. He's been charged with a whopping 67 offences, which include including aggravated cruelty to an animal. He was sentenced to six months behind bars before being deported.
Australia has some serious penalties when it comes to wildlife trafficking. You can serve up to 10 years in jail and be hit with a $210,000 fine.