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Smuggled Iguanas Die As Cruise Passenger Tries To Sneak Them Into Australia

A cruise ship passenger is facing charges after he allegedly tried to smuggle a pair of endangered iguanas into Australia.

The reptiles were seized by Australian Border Force officials after crew members alerted authorities to a passenger who had been found with two live Fijian Banded Iguanas in his luggage.

Investigators allege the 49-year-old man got the lizards during a stop in Vanuatu.

“Sadly there are people in Australia who are prepared to pay large sums of money for exotic and rare wildlife products," ABF Superintendent John Fleming said in a statement.

“But these people should know we are alert to their activities. These iguanas are beautiful animals and it’s obvious why they are appealing to wildlife smugglers.

"Working with our partners, the ABF will continue to do all we can to put a stop to this cruel trade.”

The iguanas were seized on a cruise ship docking in Australia. Image: provided

Unfortunately, the reptiles were euthanised as they presented the significant biosecurity risk of introducing exotic pests and diseases which could be harmful to the Australian environment.

The lizards were also showing signs of ill health and skin lesions.

"The smuggling of wildlife is not only illegal, but is also cruel and inhumane," Robyn Martin, Acting First Assistant Secretary in the Biosecurity Animal Division of the federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources said in a statement to 10 daily.

READ MORE: Lizard Smuggling Ring Busted Hiding Reptiles In Milo Tins, Toys, Deep Fryers 

The department's Acting Head of Biosecurity Operations, Mark Simpson, said illegally imported exotic animals can bring devastating pests and diseases.

"Our biosecurity officers worked closely with our ABF  colleagues throughout this detection to ensure the significant biosecurity risks were managed," he said.

Image: provided

Offences relating to the illegal importation of wildlife carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $210,000.

Fijian Banded Iguanas, which are considered a national treasure in Fiji, are an endangered species.

Native to the Fiji islands, it is one of the most geographically isolated iguanas in the world.

The illegal reptile trade is enormously profitable and extremely active in Australia, with buyers willing to spend thousands of dollars for rare species both here and overseas.

Following a joint 10-month investigation by Australia Post and Australian Border Force, more than 150 live reptiles were detected and rescued from a smuggling ring operating out of Melbourne, authorities said earlier this month.

Among other hiding spots, lizards were found hidden in toys, powdered chocolate tins, chip containers, deep fryers and rice cookers, bound transport to China and Hong Kong.

At the time, Iain Bruce from the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning said it was nearly impossible to estimate the full extent of the reptile smuggling trade -- which has no human victims to sound the alarm.