Major wildlife case updates from the Conservation Regulator Victoria

Jan 19, 2024

Recently, there have been major developments in several major investigations into wildlife crime, including a court case result about koala cruelty at Cape Bridgewater and substantial charges laid in relation to an alleged illegal wildlife trade syndicate.

The clearing of a Cape Bridgewater property caused “a great deal of harm to scores of koalas”

Contracting businesses have been reminded of their responsibilities when working in blue gum plantations containing wildlife after a forestry and earthmoving business was convicted and fined $79,000 for their involvement in the death and injury of koalas at a Cape Bridgewater property in 2019-20.

The business pleaded guilty to five cruelty charges for causing pain, suffering, and/or death to dozens of koalas when they cleared habitat at the former blue gum plantation site. They were one of two businesses hired but were found responsible for the majority of the harm.

In sentencing, His Honour Magistrate Lethbridge said while “not deliberately cruel or sadistic”, the business’ actions caused “a great deal of harm to scores of koalas”.

A separate contractor was fined $20,000 in December 2022 for their minor role in disturbing the koala population.  The case of the Cape Bridgewater property owner remains before the Warrnambool Magistrates’ Court.

Two blue-tongued lizards found as part of Operation Pike investigations

Our focus has also been on Operation Pike, our major investigation into the illegal wildlife trade in Victoria, with assistance from Victoria Police and the federal Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water.

Last month we charged a 20-year-old Caroline Springs man with 104 offences for his alleged involvement in a cross-border illegal wildlife trade syndicate, as well as the unlawful taking of reptiles from the wild and possession of illegally sourced wildlife.

The charges followed a thorough investigation by our Authorised Officers who searched the man’s house with a warrant in January and seized dozens of allegedly illegally sourced native reptiles. He allegedly took reptiles from the wild or received them from interstate and kept them at his house before the syndicate sold them to local and interstate buyers.

Original article shared in the Conservation Matters quarterly newsletter published by the Chief Conservation Regulator, Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action Victoria. Subscribe to receive this newsletter here.

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