|Busted: Wildlife Smuggler Hides 44 Endangered Lizards in Underwear!|
New Zealand Custom officials at the Christchurch International Airport got quite the surprise Sunday evening. A 58-year-old man from Germany was attempting to board a flight when he was searched by Customs officials.
When searched, officials discovered a small package concealed in Hans Kurt Kubus underwear. The package contained eight separate hand-sewn compartments that held 24 geckos from five different species and 20 live skinks from two species. One single gecko, rolled up in a sock, was also found in the man’s luggage. Most of the adult females that were confiscated are pregnant and are expected to give birth to multiple offspring within the next few weeks.
Greg Reid, Manager Investigations of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) said, “New Zealand’s endemic species are especially sought after by black market pet collectors. In terms of export, geckos are one of the most valuable species and can be worth vast sums on the black market.” The geckos are estimated to be worth $50,000 on the black market in Europe.
Destined for the international illegal wildlife trade, all the animals were taken from the wild. Kubus reportedly admitted to trading the animals without permits and was arrested and charged. He pleaded guilty to five charges of trading in exploited species and two counts of hunting absolutely protected wildlife. Sentencing will take place in January.
New Zealand Geckos and Skinks
According to the New Zealand Herpetological Society, New Zealand has two kinds of lizards – skinks and geckos. Skinks have smooth and shiny skin and streamlined bodies while geckos have soft, velvety skin and have huge bulging eyes. Both have excellent sight, hearing and sense of smell. Both can lose their tails and can live up to 40 years. Threats to both include habitat loss and predators including mice, cats, ferrets and birds.
Source - GO Media - Written by Jace Shoemaker-Galloway -