Miners smuggling reptiles from the Pilbara for lucrative sale on the black market have become a focus for WA’s Department of Environment and Conservation. According to The West Australian some Australian snakes and lizards can fetch $20,000 overseas and bobtail lizards can sell for $7500 in Asia.
Earlier this year a Pilbara fly-in-fly-out miner was arrested at Perth Airport carrying two Stimson’s pythons and a sand swimmer skink out of Newman. The man was fined $3700 and a third Stimson’s python and pygmy python were found at his house.
DEC wildlife officer Matt Swan told The West Australian 67 native animals had been seized this year and pygmy pythons, Pilbara olive pythons, banded knob tailed geckos, and pygmy spiny tailed skinks were some of the most common.
Many of the reptiles are classified as a protected species, and it is illegal to remove protected animals from the wild without a licence. Swan said the DEC had recently given a presentation to a mining company in Perth on reptile smuggling and how to detect it. He said smuggling had the potential to be a cruel practice, especially if animals were not handled appropriately.
Some mining companies in Western Australia have recently been moving to offer snake handling courses to their workers. On some regional sites snakes are a not uncommon occurrence, and the practice of confidently handling them is an added benefit to site safety.