On 13 March 2017, 20-year-old Hong Kong national Ka Chun Leung was sentenced in the Magistrates Court of Western Australia to 12 months’ imprisonment for trying to export 23 lizards.
Ka Chun Leung arrived at Perth International Airport on Sunday 11 December 2016 on a 601 e-visitor visa with a return ticket booked for 14 December. He was met by two people, with whom he visited a licenced reptile dealer in Katanning and bought 16 Bobtail Lizards and two Western Blue-tongue Lizards.
The owner, Nathan Marwick, advised police he’d seen the reptiles being placed into Australia Post boxes on top of straw. He said Leung had been present the entire time.
At Perth Gateway Facility on 13 December 2016, Australia Post employees scanning a parcel using x-ray found it displayed anomalies, as the contents were declared as ‘handicraft’. They referred it to Australian Border Force (ABF) and when investigators from this agency and the Department of Parks and Wildlife opened the parcel, they discovered 10 Bobtail Lizards and one Western Blue-tongue Lizard, each with its arms and legs tightly bound in masking tape hidden in socks.
Due to being bound, many of the lizards were heavily caked in faeces.
Photographs provided by of the shop owner of the lizards he’d sold allowed investigators to match distinct visual features with those lizards in the parcel.
When Leung tried to depart Australia at the Perth International Airport on 13 December 2016 to Hong Kong, he was stopped by ABF officers and interviewed and subsequently arrested.
The following day, Australia Post employees at the Perth Gateway Facility again used x-ray to identify anomalies in another parcel. It was found to contain 11 Bobtail Lizards and one Western Blue-tongue Lizard, each again with its arms and legs tightly bound in masking tape and hidden in socks.
CCTV footage obtained from Belmont Post Office and Bayswater Post Office showed the two parcels being posted on 13 December 2016 at 15:54 and 16:22 respectively by an Asian male wearing a black bucket hat pulled down low and a black jacket. The accused was wearing that same black jacket at the time of his arrest at Perth International Airport.
On 13 March 2017, Ka Chun Leung was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment with six months to serve on a recognizance release order to be of good behaviour for 12 months, with a penalty of $1,500 each for the four offences, in relation to:
- 2 counts of trying to export regulated native specimens contrary to section 303DD(1) of the Environment Protection and Bio-diversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth)
- 2 counts of cruelty—export or import of animals contrary to section 303GP(2) of the Environment Protection and Bio-diversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth).
While the Magistrate noted that Leung was young, had no prior convictions and lived at home with his mother in Hong Kong, and that the accused was naive and felt silly for being used to commit an offence, the Magistrate emphasised this was a wilful act and that a general deterrence was necessary.
In particular, the Magistrate highlighted the fact the reptile specimens were protected from cruelty, and as such, imprisonment was the only appropriate sentence given the seriousness of the offence.