Snakes enter Australia through postal system

Image: Thirteen Indonesian snakes euthanased at Melbourne’s international mail facility. Department of Agriculture, via ABC

May 2015

Biosecurity inspectors recently foiled an attempt to smuggle snakes into Australia through the postal system in concealed in plywood boxes.

Thirteen live snakes, up to 1.5m long, were intercepted at Melbourne’s international mail facility on Saturday 22nd June during routine inspections. The package originated from Indonesia and was marked as “mixed powder”. Once euthanased, the snakes will be tested to determine their species, origin, and any parasites or diseases they may be carrying.

According to Department of Agriculture Pathway Compliance head, Nicola Hinder, the reptiles had been smuggled into Australia for sale as pets or breeding stock, and posed a high biosecurity risk. “This detection of concealed and illegally imported snakes, sent from Indonesia, is a clear attempt to get around the rules that are in place to protect us all,” Ms Hinder said.

Dr. Michelle Christy, National Incursion Response Facilitator for Invasive Animals CRC, is concerned by the number of reptiles being smuggled into Australia in recent years. “Just as troubling is the fact that smuggled animals are then captively-bred as part of the black market pet trade”.

Aside from the cruel nature of the illegal pet trade, keeping and trading non-native animals like snakes threatens Australia’s biodiversity, agriculture, and human health. Antivenin for exotic venomous snakes is not widely available in Australia and therefore a bite may become a serious health risk.

The Department of Agriculture is investigating the circumstances under which the snakes arrived in Australia, to determine what criminal offences under quarantine and environmental law are appropriate.

Australia is committed to international conventions which outlaw the trafficking of endangered and exotic species. The penalty for illegal possession under national environment law is up to five years gaol and/or a fine of up to $110,000.