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Convicted Gecko smuggler gets "stiff sentence"

1 February 2001 Media Statement
Convicted Gecko smuggler gets "stiff sentence" under tougher wildlife protection laws

Conservation Minister Sandra Lee says she hopes the stiff sentence meted out to a German tourist convicted under tough new wildlife protection laws of smuggling Northland green geckos will serve as a deterrent to others.

Jorg Kreutz was fined $12,000 in the Manukau District Court this week after being convicted on a charge of 'exporting absolutely protected reptiles'.

"This is the first prosecution brought by the Department of Conservation since the Wildlife Act was toughened last October, replacing the previous maximum 15-hundred dollar penalty with a $100,000 maximum fine," Ms Lee said. "The stiff fine given to Kreutz highlights the courts willingness to impose significantly greater penalties on offenders."

The Minister of Customs Phillida Bunkle says customs officers at Auckland International Airport used the new search and seizure powers under the Wildlife Act to detain Kreutz and recover green geckos, acting on information received.

"These powers weren't available to customs officers before the tougher laws were passed last October," Ms Bunkle said. "Kreutz was intercepted at Auckland Airport on January 28 preparing to depart the country with two of the geckos in his underwear.”

Phillida Bunkle says this case underlines the importance of the work of the coordinating body for the operation, the Wildlife Enforcement Group in which Customs and DOC work together to protect New Zealand’s precious native animals from exploitative trade.

Ms Bunkle said that native New Zealand geckos sell for around US$5000 for a breeding pair on the international market. Ms Lee said the geckos found on Kreutz were a male and pregnant female taken from Mautauri Bay in the far North, and the female has subsequently died. "The Northland green gecko is protected due to its fragility and because the subspecies is unique to Northland," she said.


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