Wildlife smuggling in New Zealand

New Zealand has a number of rare and endangered species and there have been cases of wildlife smuggling.

The Wildlife Enforcement Group, a group of three government departments, collectively investigate smuggling to and from New Zealand. The three agencies are the New Zealand Customs Service, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Department of Conservation.[1]

New Zealand is a signatory to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) which was set up to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. CITES is administered by the Department of Conservation.

In 1997 over 600 Australian birds were being smuggled through New Zealand destined for Europe, the United States, and Japan.[2]

Notable prosecutions

Prosecutions from smuggling wildlife can be made under the Trade in Endangered Species Act 1989. Some prosecutions for attempted smuggling include:

  • In 1993 a light plane was used to smuggle 31 Australian birds, including two cockatoo species, into New Zealand. In "Operation Icarus" the police made a number of arrests with the eventual conviction of six people in New Zealand and another six in Australia.[2]
  • Freddie Angell was a recidivist wildlife smuggler who spent four years in jail for wildlife smuggling.[3]
  • A German tourist was fined $12,000 for attempting to smuggle Northland green geckos out of the country in his underwear.[4]
  • Two Czech botanists were convicted in 2004 of attempting to smuggle 363 wild plants, including 93 endemic orchids.[5]
  • In January 2010 a German man who tried to smuggle 44 live geckos and skinks out of the country in his underwear was sentenced to 12 weeks in jail. He was caught trying to board a flight at Christchurch Airport with the animals.[6]
  • In March 2010 two people were jailed for 18 weeks after taking jewelled geckos from the Otago Peninsula. They were arrested after a German man was found in Christchurch with 16 geckos in tubes in his backpack. He was sentenced to 15 weeks in prison.[7]
  • Two Germans were jailed for four and a half months in March 2011 for attempting to smuggle jewelled geckos out of the country,[8] and in May 2012 a German man was jailed for 16 weeks after being found guilty of hunting and possessing four jewelled geckos.[9]

See also


External links

  • Department of Conservation
  • New Zealand CITES-listed species
  • TRAFFIC Oceania - wildlife trade monitoring network
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