Australian lizards destined for the international black market have been found by Australia Post workers, packed in rice cookers bound for China.
X-rays on the new cookers revealed unexplainable shadows, with postal workers quickly alerting authorities.
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) officers arrived to dismantle the cookers.
They found live lizards, including an albino blue tongue, bearded dragons and shingleback lizards.
The animals were found bound, inside socks or cloth packaging and without access to food or water, which QPWS’s wildlife southern operations coordinator Warren Christensen described as “extremely cruel”.
He said the lizards were highly sought after around the world due to their beauty and unique traits, fetching thousands of dollars on the black market.
“Thankfully these animals did not make it onto the black market, but they cannot be released into the wild because we don’t know where they were captured or if they were exposed to disease,” he said.
“They will spend the rest of their days in captivity, taking part in breeding programs and educating the public about the illegal trade of wildlife.”
A 28-year-old Taiwanese man was arrested in Victoria and charged with 67 offences including aggravated cruelty to an animal and was sentenced to six-months in prison.
He has since been deported.
Wildlife trafficking is a major indictable offence and carries significant penalties, including up to 10 years imprisonment and a $210,000 fine.