By Jessica Rowe
Much tougher penalties are to be introduced for anyone caught trying to smuggle endangered wildlife.
Fines and jail terms will be doubled and if the culprits are foreigners they will be banned from coming back.
Today, a 27-year-old German was jailed for four months, for stealing endangered geckos from Banks Peninsula.
Andreas Hahn was caught with four rare jewelled geckos, each placed in a sock, inside his campervan last month.
The judge described him as more of a “mad collector” than a “cynical commercial poacher”.
“You are a misguided, naïve and hopelessly over enthusiastic lover of wildlife,” Judge Raoul Neave said in sentencing.
The jewelled gecko is mainly found on the Otago and Banks Peninsulas, is a threatened species and lives on one plant throughout their entire life time.
They are worth around $8,000 on the European black market.
Last year, three men were arrested for trying to smuggle 16 geckos out of the country.
The geckos were released, but incredibly were caught by other smugglers and later found on sale in Europe.
Hahn had sign posted his obsession for lizards before he even left Germany.
“Prior to arriving in New Zealand, the defendant posted an advertisement on a German reptile enthusiast website, seeking to trade gila monsters, which is a species of large North American lizard for various reptiles including New Zealand geckos,” Crown Prosecutor Mike Bodie said.
Under the Wildlife Act, the maximum penalties for taking protected wildlife are a fine of $100,000 or six months in prison.
But the Conservation Minister says this sort of case highlights the need for tougher penalties.
Under the new law, smugglers like Hahn will be banned from coming back to New Zealand for 10 years.