Hundreds of exotic wildlife items seized during OPERATION BONAPARTE
11 August 2011
An investigation by the federal environment department has netted close to 400 alleged illegal wildlife products.
On Wednesday 3 August, federal environment compliance officers involved in Operation BONAPARTE executed a warrant at a residence in Parramatta, and seized a vast collection of alleged illegal wildlife products.
"Operation BONAPARTE is one of the largest wildlife seizures in Australia, and follows detailed monitoring and investigative work by departmental officers," department spokeswoman Ms Deb Callister said.
Wildlife products seized include the full skin and head of an Alaskan wolf, a full skin of a lynx, a lion skull, bear skull and a mounted bear head. Orangutan skulls, a carved monkey skull, ivory products and scrimshaw were also seized.
"The operation involved intelligence gathering from several sources, including the analysis of items seized by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service," Ms Callister said.
The warrants executed related to the alleged illegal importation of wildlife products regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
CITES was established in 1975 to regulate international trade in endangered species or those at risk of endangerment, and is enforceable under Australia's national environment law.
"Unregulated trade in wildlife has become a major factor in the decline of many species of animals and plants. The global demand for some products has had a devastating impact on the wild populations of certain plant and animal species, such as the impact of the ivory trade on elephants," Ms Callister said.
"To prevent this devastating impact there can be strict penalties for illegal wildlife trade, and my advice to travellers and online shoppers is that it is important that you do your homework. What regulations apply? Do you need documentation for your item?
"Be a wise and cautious buyer, ask questions; what is the item made of, where did it come from? What supporting paperwork does the seller have? Remember 'If in doubt, check it out'.
"What might appear to be an online bargain could end up costing you a lot more."
Penalties for the illegal importation of CITES listed wildlife and wildlife products include up to $110,000 in fines and/or up to 10 years in jail.
Ms Callister said the success of operations like BONAPARTE demonstrates the effectiveness of agencies working together in combating illegal wildlife trade. We encourage you to report any information on illegal wildlife trade to the department on: firstname.lastname@example.org.