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Media Release

Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald
Parliamentary Secretary to the
Minister for the Environment

THE BIG BURN FOR SEIZED WILDLIFE


10 February 1998

Lions paws, zebra skins, American Ginseng and bear bile are among the seized animal and plant products on display today ahead of a mass destruction of seized goods in Sydney this week.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment, Senator Ian Macdonald, says 1 400 products will be destroyed to ensure these illegal wildlife items do not end up back on the market place.

"The Australian government is one of 140 countries that has strict controls in place to ensure the survival of the worlds precious plants and animals." Senator Macdonald said while visiting the Australian Customs Service store in Sydney today.

"As a member nation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Australia prohibits the import of a range of products made from threatened species, including elephant, tiger and bear parts." Last financial year in Australia there were approximately 4 000 seizures across the country, many involving multiple items, such as collections of coral, threatened shells and animal teeth.

"Many of the wildlife products are seized from Australian and international tourists who are unaware of Australia's import and export regulations. Items of most concern are traditional Asian medicines which contain products from spectacular animals such as tigers, rhinoceros and bears."

"Thousands of endangered animals and plants die every year to meet consumer demand for wildlife products. If this demand was reduced or ceased altogether, I am sure many of these species would have a greater chance of survival."

"It is up to all travellers to take responsibility when buying souvenirs overseas. Just because a product is for sale does not mean it has been taken or harvested legally."

"It is always best to check whether a wildlife product can be imported or not before travelling overseas. People can contact Environment Australia on 02 6250 300 or fax 02 6250 0303, to obtain a wide range of brochures explaining the import and export rules. Some wildlife products that have been farmed or taken from an approved harvesting program may be exported or imported to and from Australia with a permit."

Wildlife Protection within Environment Australia administers Australia's involvement in CITES, and works closely with the Australian Customs Service and State and Territory wildlife and enforcement authorities to monitor illegal wildlife trafficking.

Contact:
Robert Dark (Senator Macdonald) 07 47713066
David Kay (Department) 02 6250 0240
Chris Schofield (Australian Customs Service) 02 9213 2008 or 0418 281501
10 February 1998

Commonwealth of Australia