Slithery creatures like Colombus the python are hoped to be among the beneficiaries of a new plan to crackdown on illegal animal trafficking operating across Victoria.
The wide-eyed reptile was on hand to hear Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio announce that the state government will partner with Crime Stoppers on the Trafficked, Traded and Traumatised campaign.
The program calls on members of the community to become whistleblowers on suspected animal traffickers.
“Illegal trafficking is becoming more sophisticated by the day,” the minister told reporters at the Melbourne Zoo on Thursday.
“The use of social media with closed auctioning of wildlife means that it’s actually now harder to detect and crackdown on this illegal and cruel trading.
“If you see something, please say something.”
The United Nations has estimated the global industry is worth between $60 billion and $200 billion dollars annually.
The postal service had become the method of choice for smugglers, despite the inhumane conditions, Environment Department senior investigator Samantha Moore said.
“The intention of these people is, purely, to make a dollar,” she added.
“They will use whatever means available to get these animals through the port and to avoid detection.”
It is often perceived that only exotic items like elephant tusk and rhinoceros horn fetched top-dollar on the international wildlife black market, but that was not the case, Ms Moore said.
“Very common species in Victoria can command quite a high price overseas,” she said.
“Something like the friendly shingleback lizard may only command $300 to $400 here in Australia, yet the overseas asking price can be between $4,000 and $10,000.”
In Australia, criminals found in possession of illegally imported animals, or their offspring, face up to 10 years in jail and fines up to $110,000.