NSW man sentenced for record illegal wildlife haul

Department of the Environment

Media release
2 May 2014

A Parramatta man convicted of 24 charges of possessing illegal wildlife products was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment following the largest seizure of illegal wildlife items in the history of the Federal Department of the Environment.

Mr John Kolettas pleaded guilty in April 2013 to charges related to possessing illegal wildlife products found during a search of his western Sydney home.

The Parramatta Local Court ordered Mr Kolettas’ sentence to be served by way of intensive correction order for the possession of specimens listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Mr Kolettas will also be required to undertake 384 hrs of community service over the next 12 months and comply with other strict conditions.

He was also fined $4000 under NSW legislation for firearms matters that were uncovered as part of the Department of the Environment’s search warrant action.

Mr Kolettas’ house was searched as part of an extensive criminal investigation which resulted in the seizure of 78 illegal wildlife products made from 24 threatened species; including 11 orang-utan skulls and 25 other skulls of monkeys, lynx, bears and a tiger. Other illegal items included teeth and skins from species such as orang-utans, lynx, otters, and a feather headdress made from a bird of paradise.

The Department of the Environment worked with other federal and NSW government agencies on the record haul. Wildlife trafficking is a cruel and often barbaric trade that has become more widespread and lucrative and is now valued at billions of dollars worldwide.

The illegal trade in wildlife is also driving the decline of many species around the world. The community—particularly collectors, travellers and online shoppers—should be aware of what they are buying, what it is made of, and where it is from. Without realising it they may be contributing to the decline of threatened species, simply by purchasing what initially looks like a bargain.

The best way to avoid this is to ask for supporting documentation and finding out if any regulations apply by going to the wildlife trade section of the federal department website.

Items seized in this case were listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to which Australia is one of 178 countries that are signatories.

Under Australian law, it is illegal to import these species, or parts of them, without a permit. It is also an offence to possess items that have been illegally imported by someone else.

Those with information about trade in illegal wildlife or wildlife products contact the federal environment department on 02 6274 1900 or wildlifetrade.compliance@environment.gov.au.