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Joint News Release
Minister for Environment and Heritage
Minister for Justice and Customs

Rare spider and scorpions stopped by Customs web

Wednesday 18 October 2000

An endangered tarantula and five endangered scorpions have been seized by Customs after being detected in mail at a Melbourne postal centre.

In a joint statement, the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Amanda Vanstone, and the Federal Environment Minister, Senator Robert Hill, criticised the attempted import, saying that illegal wildlife traffic was putting at risk some of the world's most endangered and precious invertebrates.

The attempt to import the African scorpions and tarantula failed after Customs inspected a parcel that arrived last week from the United Kingdom. The parcel's labelling described the contents as porcelain.

A number of scorpions, identified as endangered Emperor Scorpions, died shortly after their arrival. The remainder, together with an endangered King Baboon tarantula, were handed to the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service for storage under tight quarantine control. Both species are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES).

Senator Vanstone described the attempted import as cruel and crude.

"Customs staff at international mail centres screen thousands of mail items each day using sophisticated technology. This detection should be a warning to all that Australia's border controls are effective in preventing trade in both wildlife and wildlife souvenirs.

"This detection by Customs is another example of Australia's determination, and ability, to stamp out illegal trade in wildlife. Unfortunately, as with much of the senseless trade in endangered wildlife, three scorpions did not survive."

Senator Hill said: "Illegal traffic in exotic species not only breaks our quarantine and wildlife protection laws, but potentially threatens the survival of populations of native animals.

"It could allow the introduction of exotic diseases or pests."

Senator Vanstone and Senator Hill warned collectors that importing live animals without the appropriate permits was a criminal offence. Fines of up to $110,000 and/or terms of up to 10 years in prison can apply for individuals. Penalties for corporations can be up to $550,000.

Customs enquiries into the attempted import are continuing.

Note: As remaining spiders are in strict quarantine, Customs cannot provide "live" access. However VHS film is available by contacting Customs on 02 - 6275 6508

Ministerial Contacts:
Kevin Donnellan - Senator Vanstone 0419 400 078
Belinda Huppatz - Senator Hill 0419 258 364

Commonwealth of Australia