An Australian man has been convicted for shipping native Australian lizards to Italy inside pairs of socks, the media reported on Monday. Craig James Pender, a Victoria man, was convicted of illegally importing and exporting reptiles, as reported by a news agency. Pender exported 13 Australian reptiles to Italy, including five blue-tongue lizards, four spiny-tailed skinks and four shingle-back lizards, tucked inside pairs of socks which were in turn stuffed into a speaker system.
The discovery of the lizards by Italian customs staff prompted a joint investigation between Victorian and Australian agriculture departments which resulted in Pender’s arrest. It is believed the man was part of an international smuggling ring specialising in exotic reptiles. Robyn Cleland, head of compliance for the federal agriculture department, said bio-security officials would pursue other members of the ring.
“Exotic animals can introduce devastating pests and diseases. Pender’s irresponsible actions placed our national wildlife, environment and industries at great risk.” Cleland said.
A search warrant carried out during the investigation against Pender found illegally imported hog-nosed snakes in his house. The investigation also turned up links between Pender and Norwegian man Bard Alexander Meringen, who was arrested in Norway with more than 200 live reptiles in his home. Pender was also convicted of illegally importing into Australia four green tree pythons in 2009.
People convicted of importing or exporting a threatened species in Australia face a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment, a penalty that could be increased to 10 years if the species is protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.