Hot birds grabbed
NO charges have been laid in connection with a large quantity of exotic birds and eggs found in Ballina after Australian Customs smashed an international wildlife smuggling racket. A spokesman for Australian Customs declined yesterday to comment on the continuing investigation and the Northern Rivers link into wildlife smuggling. Yesterday, investigators revealed that an office of the West Australian Government's Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM) was among properties raided by customs officials investigating an international wildlife smuggling racket. Co-ordinated raids in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia last week led to the discovery of large quantities of Australian native and exotic birds and eggs. The Australian Customs Service has described the operation as the biggest aimed at identifying and prosecuting wildlife smugglers. Western Australia's Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) yesterday said a metropolitan office of CALM was among five premises raided in Western Australia in which birds, cockatoo eggs and devices for capturing protected native birds and eggs were found. "Investigations into the activities of the syndicate in Western Australia and the other states are continuing," CCC executive director Mike Silverstone said. A spokesman for CALM said the department was expecting charges to be laid under the Commonwealth's Wildlife Conservation Act. In other raids across Australia, a search of two rural properties in Bendigo found up to 1000 birds, including seven parrots. A large number of birds, including macaws and parrots, was discovered at Mudgeeraba on the Gold Coast. "This was part of a major operation aimed at disrupting an organised trade in wildlife between Australia, Africa and South-East Asia in particular," Customs investigations manager Richard Janeczko said. Mr Janeczko said all birds seized in the raids were being evaluated and cared for while further seizures were expected as a result of the investigations. He said charges were expected to be laid across all the State raids as a result of the operation. Wildlife trafficking carries penalties of up to $110,000 and a 10-year jail term.