Fake building blocks hide real biosecurity risks

​Joint media release

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
Australian Border Force

Authorities from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) and the Australian Border Force (ABF) have intercepted 50 turtles and lizards, concealed in an international mail consignment from Indonesia on 9 June 2017.

The package, declared as ‘toys’, was x-rayed by ABF officers in Sydney where anomalies were found. Biosecurity officers were swiftly alerted, who confirmed that 50 turtles and lizards were concealed among the toy blocks.

Head of biosecurity operations at DAWR, Nico Padovan, said vets secured the contraband and the animals were euthanised.

“People sending lizards and turtles through the mail have no concern for the welfare of the animals or the potential biosecurity risk they present to our country and people,” Mr Padovan said.

“Importing turtles and lizards without an import permit is not only breaking the law, but it puts human health and the health of our environmental ecosystems at risk.

“It is one of the reasons why the Biosecurity Act 2015 was introduced; to provide essential protection for our $59 billion agricultural industries, natural environment and the health of Australian people, animals and plants.

“It is an ongoing battle, but with the latest technology available we will catch those who do the wrong thing.”

ABF Regional Commander New South Wales, Tim Fitzgerald, said this detection is a great example of Australia’s border security processes.

“Australian Border Force Officers at the International Mail Centre in Sydney have done an outstanding job in identifying and examining a high risk package being imported from Indonesia, where numerous turtles and lizards were cruelly concealed in building blocks,” Commander Fitzgerald said.  

Mr Padovan said biosecurity was not just about stopping things at the border.

“We work offshore to reduce the likelihood pests and diseases make it to Australia, at the border to stop them when they do, and onshore to detect and eradicate pests and diseases that make it here,” Mr Padovan said.

“In 2015–16 around 138 million international mail articles were sent to Australia, with 19 million international travellers coming through Australian airports.

“Managing Australia’s biosecurity system is a big job.

“We need people to do the right thing and not bring or send things to Australia that could result in pests of diseases getting here.

“That way we can concentrate our efforts on those who intentionally try to thwart our systems.”

For information about what can and can’t be sent to Australia go to agriculture.gov.au/travelling.

The turtle and lizard importation matter is still under investigation.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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