By Trevor Paddenburg
Native birds endangered in WA are being advertised online and sold on the European black market for as much as $40,000 each.
An investigation by the International Fund for Animal Welfare found commercial trade of live Australian animals was “flourishing” in online marketplaces.
Among the animals offered for sale are red-tailed black cockatoos, which are endangered in WA, as well as Major Mitchell’s cockatoos and galahs. All three species are only found in Australia and were offered for sale on websites in the Netherlands, Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, despite a ban on commercial exports.
Advertisements for live animals accounted for more than half of all wildlife listings and included orangutans and chimpanzees as well as tigers, leopards, jaguars and a “toilet-trained” gorilla for sale in Russia.
“Many (animals) will have been exported legally from Australia to zoos unscrupulous enough to then sell them or their young to commercial dealers or collectors,” IFAW’s Oceania regional director Isabel McCrea said.
She said Australia’s unique birds are in high demand and can fetch upwards of $40,000 each because they are so beautiful, exotic, rare and difficult to obtain. “For every live bird or reptile sold by smugglers, many more may have died while being couriered to their destination,” she said.
“Death isn’t quick, with many dying from suffocation or stress. We have grave concerns for the welfare of these poor animals offered for sale in Europe.
“Our findings are only the tip of the iceberg and show a need for our government to provide enhanced intelligence and investigation resources.” .
Ivory was the most common illegal animal product for sale. The total value of illegal animals discovered in 16 countries over the six-week investigation period was almost $13 million.
One online ad in Kazakhstan offered a pair of Major Mitchell’s cockatoos for $15,000, while another ad in the Ukraine pictured a wallaby with a description “little jump herbivorous animal”.
Australian Customs and Border Protection said it was illegal to export any animal listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, and those who tried risked jail time.
Environment Minister Albert Jacob said Department of Parks and Wildlife staff worked hand in hand with Customs and Australia Post officers to intercept illegal consignments of Australian fauna being smuggled out of the country by wildlife traffickers.