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Tuesday, 10 September 1985
Page: 355

(Question No. 218)


Senator Jones asked the Minister representing the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment, upon notice, on 17 April 1985:

In view of a recent report in the Brisbane Courier Mail concerning the illegal taking and trading of eggs of protected and endangered native birds:

(a) Is there any evidence indicating that this trade involves a highly organised national ring, and such activities are widespread in all States;

(b) what is the potential danger to our endangered bird species from this trade;

(c) what measures are being taken, on an Australia-wide basis, to stamp out this activity both at the point of initial operation, and at the points where hollow birds eggs are sold or leave Australia; and

(d) have any arrests been made or charges laid against any person involved in this activity.


Senator Ryan —The Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(a) I am unaware of any evidence suggesting that such activities involve a highly organised national ring or are widespread in all States. Nor does there appear to be a highly organised national ring involved in the collection and smuggling out of Australia of viable eggs. Illegal collection of eggs does, however, occur and is of concern.

(b) Illegal collection of birds eggs, for whatever purpose, poses a potential danger to endangered birds for a combination of reasons. Removing eggs directly affects the ability of the species to maintain itself. However, the methods of egg collectors can have a more far-reaching effect. Parent birds may abandon any remaining eggs and collectors may also destroy the nesting site in their efforts to obtain the eggs. The practice sometimes followed is to cut trees down to obtain access to eggs. Loss of nesting sites can pose a significant threat to the survival of some species.

(c) The collection and possession of eggs of endangered birds is governed by legislation in each State and Territory. Officers of the State and Territory nature conservation agencies, and in some instances State police, are responsible for enforcing this legislation. The export from Australia of such items is governed by the Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act which is administered by the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service. Officers of the Australian Customs Service and the Australian Federal Police are inspectors under this Act. Since the Act came into effect on 1 May 1984, the penalties for illegally exporting or attempting or conspiring to illegally export native fauna or the products of native fauna are fines of up to $100,000 or imprisonment for up to 5 years for individuals, or fines of up to $200,000 for offences involving corporations.

It is inappropriate to provide details of the methods used by the agencies to combat these activities. However, the public, by reporting suspicious activities to their local nature conservation authority or police, have a significant role to play in controlling such activities.

At a national level, liaison and co-operation between State, Territory and Commonwealth agencies involved in this and related issues is being strengthened and measures are being developed to facilitate the transfer of information between these agencies. The Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service is also establishing close contacts with its counterparts in countries that are participants in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

(d) The incident reported in the Courier Mail has resulted in 9 people being charged under the New South Wales legislation for collecting 33,000 eggs of protected or endangered birds. There is no evidence suggesting the egg collections were destined for overseas markets.

On 11 September 1984, two American citizens were convicted under Western Australian legislation for illegally collecting 29 galah eggs (Cacatua roseicapilla) and 3 long-billed corella eggs (Cacatua tenuirostris). They were also convicted on charges relating to damage of nesting sites.

On 12 September 1984, two American citizens coming from Australia were intercepted by United States Customs as they entered the United States. They were found to be in possession of 27 cockatoo and hawk eggs. The prosecution is not yet finalised but the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service has provided information to support prosecution.

On 5 January 1985, the Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory seized 4,509 eggs of which approximately 2,500 have been identified as the eggs of native species. Prosecution on this matter is pending.