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Tourist Caught Smuggling Wildlife In Underwear

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Tourist Caught Smuggling Wildlife In Underwear

44 endangered New Zealand geckos and skinks were found hidden in the underwear of a German tourist at Christchurch International Airport on Sunday night.

58-year-old Hans Kurt Kubus was arrested and charged with attempting to illegally smuggle native New Zealand gecko and skink out of the country after he was caught trying to board at flight with the wildlife hidden in his underwear.

Mark Day, Customs Manager Investigations said that when Kubus was searched by New Zealand Customs Service staff a small package was located, concealed inside his underwear.

"The package contained eight separate compartments separating various gecko and skink species. He had hand-sewn the eight compartments together to form a single compact concealed package. We also found a single gecko in a rolled up sock in his luggage."

A Department of Conservation herpetologist identified 24 geckos from five species, and 20 skinks of two species.

"It was also determined that 14 of the 15 adult female geckos and 12 of the 14 female skinks in the defendant's possession were pregnant. Each pregnant animal is likely to give birth to multiple live young in the coming weeks," said Mike Bodie, Conservancy Solicitor Department of Conservation.

The operation was carried out by the Wildlife Enforcement Group (WEG), an equal partnership between Customs, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and the Department of Conservation, which was set up to investigate wildlife smuggling.

"Wildlife smuggling is a global, multi-billion dollar business, estimated by Interpol at US$6 - 8 billion annually and second only to the global drug trade. Like the drug trade, the trade in endangered species is fuelled by greed," said Mark Day.

The operation involved intelligence gathering, both within New Zealand and from sources overseas, such as Interpol.

Jan Coates, Senior Conservation Officer, Department of Conservation said that international liaison is one of the group's most powerful tools in the fight against wildlife crime.

"The WEG has a close working relationship with Interpol. This is a global trade that we're dealing with, so operational cooperation and intelligence sharing between kindred agencies is vital for the preservation of wildlife species."

Greg Reid, Manager Investigations, MAF said that the species involved in this operation were all intended for the international illegal trade in wildlife.

"New Zealand's endemic species are especially sought after by black market pet collectors. In terms of export, geckos are one of the most valuable species and can be worth vast sums on the black market."

The gecko species in question are all CITES listed species. CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

Kubus plead guilty to five charges of trading in exploited species, and two of hunting absolutely protected wildlife. He has been remanded for sentence on January 25.

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