It’s been a strange year for Australia’s biosecurity officers, with two live squirrels the latest items to be intercepted at airports and seaports.
A man is facing criminal charges after he allegedly tried to smuggle the rodents into Brisbane on his way back from Bali two weeks ago.
Biosecurity and Australian Border Force officers approached him at the airport and located the squirrels following a tip-off from a member of the public.
They then had to be euthanised because of the risk they posed.
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ Nico Padovan said the man’s alleged actions were unbelievable.
“Squirrels can carry rabies – which is present in Bali – and if this disease was to arrive here the toll on human and animal health would be huge,” he said.
“Every year more than 60,000 people worldwide die from rabies.”
The latest biosecurity breach comes just one month after American basketballer Lamar Patterson brought his French bulldog Kobe into Australia in his carry-on luggage.
Biosecurity officers and sniffer dogs intercepted 346,000 banned items from checkpoints across the country during the 2017-18 financial year.
Ten per cent, or 37,000, came through the Queensland capital.
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said people needed to wake up to themselves and realise the damage they could cause if they flouted the rules.
“The frightening thing around that case around the two squirrels is that half of his Instagram followers thought it was a great idea to do that,” he said.
“These animals bring pests and diseases that could actually hurt many Australians so it’s important that we aren’t ignorant to biosecurity.”
Mr Littleproud urged everyone to be more vigilant about protecting the country, particularly as more people travelled over Christmas.
“I ask every Australian as they leave the country or come into the country to think about our biosecurity,” he said.
“Help these officers out, don’t be afraid to declare, tell these officers and ask them is it okay.”
He also warned that people would be prosecuted if they maliciously tried to smuggle banned items into the country.