Federal authorities report that they arrested an arriving passenger at Los Angeles International Airport after they discovered that his clothing concealed a money belt in which he had allegedly stuffed 15 lizards from Australia, including two monitor lizards that are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
The Smuggling Of Wild Birds And Animals For Sale In The Pet Trade Is A Form Of Poaching
A money belt found around the torso of a California man returning from Australia to the US via Los Angeles International Airport was allegedly packed with lizards from Down Under. According the the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the 15 smuggled reptiles, including 11 skinks, 2 geckos and two monitor lizards have a value of $8,500 in the US pet market.
The two monitor lizards are protected under CITES, the Convention on international Trade in Endangered Species. The other 13 creatures are protected by Australian law, which requires an export license for all native reptiles leaving the country. The suspect, 40 year old Michael Plank, of Lomita, California, allegedly lacked those export licenses.
Plank, whose arrest occurred in late November, could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted of the felony counts with which he has been charged.
The capture of vulnerable wildlife for sale in the pet trade is a crime every bit as serious as the illegal killing of wild animals for their body parts. In some cases, the illegal pet trade has the potential to push threatened or endangered species closer to the brink of extinction.
Read more about endangered species and the pet trade.