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Crime Stoppers’ call to help to stop illegal wildlife trade

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Crime Stoppers Victoria is urging the community to beware and speak up about the trade of illegal wildlife and exotic pests through its ‘Don’t Buy In’ campaign.

The joint campaign with the Conservation Regulator and Agriculture Victoria aims to stop people buying pets that have been illegally brought into the country or taken from the wild.

“It is illegal to buy and sell exotic animals or to acquire native wildlife through unofficial channels in Victoria,” Crime Stoppers Victoria chief executive Stella Smith said.

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The animals are often sold through online marketplaces and by word of mouth, with many people unsure about the animal’s history or legality.  

“Native Australian animals are essential to sustaining our local ecosystems and while it’s not always illegal to own a native animal, we want to remind all Victorians to purchase them responsibly and have the right licence,” chief conservation regulator Kate Gavens said.

Animals taken from their native environments and illegally trafficked for profit are often bound, gagged, and shipped with limited air, food, and water, which many do not survive.

Australia’s shingleback lizards are one of the most heavily trafficked Australian species, selling for thousands of dollars overseas and often subjected to dreadful trafficking conditions because of the demand.

Exotic pests, such as reptiles, are also imported from overseas, and then used for breeding and trading in Victoria.

An example of this is the Red-eared Slider Turtle, which can cause significant damage to fragile ecosystems by killing or competing with native species and spreading new diseases, which in some instances has led to the extinction of native animals.

Biosecurity risks from exotic pests and diseases also pose a threat to Victoria’s $17.5 billion food and fibre sector.

“Exotic pest animals aren’t pets. The illegal pet trade is one of the two main pathways of entry into Victoria for exotic pest animals,” Agriculture Victoria acting biosecurity manager Miranda Green said.

Online marketplaces, such as Facebook and Gumtree, have made the illegal sale of native animals and exotic pests easier and many Victorians are caught out unintentionally buying illegally sourced animals.

“Don’t buy into the illegal wildlife trade and don’t support dodgy dealers. Make sure you do your research before you buy any animal and always check the animal’s condition and the seller’s licence,” Ms Smith said.

“Native wildlife must be bought from a licensed breeder, not taken from the wild. Anyone caught breaking the law will face serious consequences.”

Penalties for illegally acquiring native wildlife in Victoria can result in $40,000 in fines and up to two years in jail. Penalties for buying and selling exotic animals can result in $210,000 in fines or up to two years in prison.

If something feels suspicious or people have information relating to the trade of native wildlife and exotic pests, share with Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or online at

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