Dangerous and illegally imported animals were seized from an Illawarra property on Saturday during a biosecurity raid by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).
Two green iguanas, a rhinoceros iguana, six tarantulas, and other native animals were found in cages and tanks inside the residence south of Wollongong.
Threatened species expert Dr Beth Mott said that current legislation does not do enough to protect the environment.
“It’s incredibly dangerous for local ecosystems because often times when people have illegal or exotic pets, they just release them into our natural environment, and some of those species can actually thrive there, forcing native populations to decline,” Dr Mott said.
“Australia has quite an array of tactics that it uses to try and control illegal animal trade, but people who deal in trading animals often have ways around those.
“There needs to be a lot more regulation around the imports of reptiles.”
In a joint press release, Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek and Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt said the current biosecurity laws indicate that any illegal animal trade could result in up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $550,000 for an individual.
Minister Tanya Plibersek said the crimes were dangerous and unfair to both the imported animals and Australia’s local wildlife.
“The conditions these animals are put through in order to be snuck past our borders are cruel and shameless,” Minister Plibersek said.
“And their introduction into our environment could wreak havoc on our precious native plants and animals.
“That’s why it is so vital that these smugglers are stopped at our borders.”
Local Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) volunteer Fen Fleury said Illawarra residents will be affected by illegal trade, particularly if it disrupts the local environment.
“If our ecosystem isn’t healthy, we’re not going to be healthy,” Fen said.
Fen Fleury said a degrading ecosystem can have a detrimental impact on its human residents.
Biosecurity threats in the region should be reported to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry immediately.