Nearly 130 native Australian reptiles targeted by foreign wildlife traffickers will be added to a global convention, which the Morrison government and conservationists say will end the “cruel and repugnant” trade.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Environment Minister Sussan Ley has nominated the spiny-tailed gecko, flat-backed lizard and various species of blue-tongued lizards for inclusion in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. extinction (Cites).
“Unfortunately, our reptiles have become a major international target. Although exporting these animals without specialist permits is already illegal under Australian law, this listing will ensure further international support for their protection,” Ley said.
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The Environmental Crimes Section of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Environment convicted 11 people for wildlife trafficking in the previous two years, with a total sentence of nearly 27 years in prison, according to Ley. Government authorities, she claimed, are still prosecuting networks involved in “cruel and repugnant” trafficking.
Cites had informed the government that 127 species would be added to an official list by the middle of this year. It was one of the most comprehensive lists of all signatories to the treaty since it came into effect in 1975, according to Ley.
Australian reptiles are prized for their distinctive features and colors, making them a target for wildlife traffickers around the world.
CITES is the same treaty that prohibits the import of exotic wild animals and animal goods such as ivory.
Conservationists from the Humane Society International (HSI) have advocated listing the reptiles in 2020.
According to HSI, the reptiles were commonly traded on pet trade websites and Facebook groups in Europe, although their export was banned.
According to Alexia Wellbelove, campaign manager at HSI, illicit reptile trafficking is often brutal, with live creatures wrapped in duct tape and placed in socks or tiny containers before being smuggled overseas without food or water.
Many do not make the trip. This list adds to their arsenal of weapons against the illicit international trade in live reptiles.
The reptiles will be listed in Annex 3 of the agreement, meaning countries will be required to register creatures imported for Australia to track trade.
Wellbelove said HSI hopes reptiles will receive greater protection under Annex One of the convention in the future, resulting in a legal ban on international trade.
The Cites Prohibited List includes 1,082 species and 36 subspecies of plants and animals. The first signatory to the convention was Australia.
Wildlife smuggling is a lucrative industry. Like narcotics and illegal weapons, wildlife and animal parts are trafficked through deadly transnational networks. It is almost difficult to collect solid figures on the value of the illegal wildlife trade due to its very nature. The wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC estimates it to be worth billions of dollars.
Two well-known examples of illegal wildlife trade are the poaching of elephants for ivory and tigers for their skins and bones. Many other species, from sea turtles to timber trees, are also overexploited. Wildlife trade is not always illegal. Thousands of species of wild plants and animals are trapped or harvested from the wild and then legally traded as food, pets, decorative plants, leather, tourist souvenirs and medicine. When an increasing amount of wildlife trade is illegal and unsustainable, it becomes a crisis, posing a direct threat to the existence of many wildlife species.
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