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Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts

Court denies return of illegal birds

Media release
30 November 2009

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A Victorian court has denied the return of 173 exotic birds to their keeper after finding they had been illegally imported into the country.

The result is a win for Australia’s fight against illegal wildlife trade, an issue taken seriously due to the risk it places on Australia’s unique flora and fauna.

Mike Smith from the federal environment department said in addition to disease risks, Australia has is a signatory to an international treaty which places regulations on the global wildlife trade.

“Bird smuggling can put Australia’s biodiversity at great risk and can have long-lasting, devastating impacts on both the environment and the bird keeping industry,” Mr Smith said.

“Exotic birds can carry some particularly nasty diseases which have the potential to wipe out native species, or become invasive pests which compete with our native wildlife.

“Illegal trade in wildlife is a serious crime with equally serious consequences. This is why the department has ramped up its focus on illegal wildlife trade over the last few years.”

The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts began investigating the involvement of the 61-year-old man from Sunbury, Victoria, in relation to bird smuggling back in November 2006.

A number of search warrants at premises throughout Victoria in 2007 led to the discovery of numerous exotic birds, which were seized in August 2007 under national environment law.

The Sunbury man applied to the courts to have his birds returned, however, the County Court of Victoria concluded on Friday (27 November) the birds were illegally imported. The man was denied the return of the birds.

Mr Smith said a number of the forfeited birds will be rehoused at government institutions, while the remainder will need to be euthanased due to the potential risks they pose to the Australian environment.

The department is continuing its investigations into the illegal importation of exotic bird species in Australia and will continue to seize birds, animals and plants that have been smuggled into the country.

Australia is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The birds in question were species listed under this convention.