Four people have been charged in relation to smuggling live
scorpions into New Zealand and through Queenstown Airport.
The New Zealand men were arrested after an investigation by
the Ministry for Primary Industries (MIP).
The Ministry launched an operation codenamed Operation Rock
after receiving information in April that a Queenstown man
was in possession of a live scorpion.
A live scorpion was found during a search in the town later
Further investigations, including obtaining cell phone
records, suggested there were five more scorpions.
A further search warrant was carried out at two addresses in
Queenstown and Arrowtown.
But after questioning the defendants during the searches the
investigators were satisfied the other scorpions had been
The four men are charged with various breaches to the
Biosecurity Act 1993 after six Black Rock Scorpions (Urodacus
manicatus) were allegedly smuggled from Australia through
Christchurch International Airport and then into Queenstown.
The maximum penalty for each of the charges faced by the men
is five years in prison or a fine of $100,000.
MIP South Island compliance manager John Slaughter says:
"Illegally introduced organisms can have major consequences
for native species of all types if they compete or prey upon
"In the very worst case scenario an illegally introduced
organism could have truly catastrophic effects on New
Zealand's primary and tourism industries.
"We have expert advice that these scorpions could survive in
the New Zealand climate, so it's safe to say that we view
this as an exceptionally stupid thing to do."
The men are due to appear in Queenstown District Court in
The Black Rock Scorpion is a dark-coloured species that can
grow up to 55mm in length and is often found living under
rocks and logs in Australia.
It is a widespread species and can be found in Victoria,
South Australia, New South Wales, the Australian Capital
Territory and Queensland.
Its sting can cause inflammation and pain for several hours
in humans. It is a relatively long-lived species and can
survive for eight years or more in the wild.
- by Paul Taylor of Mountain Scene