Smugglers caught taking endangered Otago wildlife out of
New Zealand could soon face up to five years in prison, after a
Select Committee report recommended harsher deterrents.
Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean took a member's Bill to Parliament
last year pushing for the introduction of higher financial
penalties and a two-year jail term for anyone caught trading
absolutely endangered wildlife.
However, a report from the Local Government and Environment
Select Committee now recommends the penalty be raised to five
years in prison for offences committed for commercial gain.
Mrs Dean said the Conservation (Natural Heritage Protection)
Bill, which would also introduce a consistent approach to the
administration of penalties imposed by the Department of
Conservation (Doc), had support from ''right across the
She now expected the Bill to receive a second parliamentary
reading within ''the next few weeks'', and it could become
law by within months.
That was good news for endangered jewelled gecko and the
Otago skink, she said.
''There is this terrible trade in jewelled geckos and they
end up in Europe at animal trade fairs and they are worth
$20,000 a breeding pair and the penalties have not been
really equal to the crime.
''What we want to do is send the strongest possible message
to anyone coming to New Zealand, because it's generally
people that come to New Zealand that take the skinks and take
them offshore, but with a prison sentence they will be
excluded from coming back to New Zealand again.''
The Bill would amend five Acts of Parliament.
Attempts to smuggle about 50 geckos from Otago and Banks
peninsulas and 24 Otago skinks from their natural habitats
have been foiled over the past three years, but the maximum
penalties to date have been fines of only $5000 and 18 weeks
The Select Committee proposals would result in fines of
$300,000 and jail terms of up to five years. Doc Grand and
Otago Skink Recovery Programme manager Andy Hutcheon said it
would be ''great'' to see ''proper and serious'' penalties
introduced for people caught smuggling endangered animals.
''From past experience dealing with jewelled geckos, it's
proper, serious, organised crime going on there.''
He added that even if skinks and geckos were returned to the
wild after being unlawfully removed, there was no information
available on what the possible ''long-term effects'' could be
on the lizards.