AUSTRALIA’S WORST WILDLIFE TRAFFICKER AVOIDS PRISON
(Sydney – 1 May 2014) - IFAW is disappointed by today’s ruling by a Parramatta court not to hand down a jail sentence to John Kolettas a Sydney teacher who was found with Australia’s largest ever haul of endangered wildlife parts. The 78 items seized included skulls and teeth from orangutans, bears and tigers and ivory along with illegal weapons.
‘This was a very serious case, the guilty man had knowingly broken the law over a number of years, even requesting that endangered animals be killed and their body parts sent to him. He deserved to go to prison.said Isabel McCrea, IFAW Oceania Regional Director.
‘The Department of Environment investigators did a great job in catching him and bringing him to court and the law allows for custodial sentences for this level of offence – this does Australia’s reputation as a strong force against the illegal wildlife trade great disservice.’
‘There is a pressing need for strong signals to traffickers that smuggling of wildlife will be treated as seriously as any other illegal commodity. The international trade in endangered animals is now big business, with some products such as rhino horn worth more by weight than gold so it follows that the penalties handed down must be strong if they are to be an effective deterrent.’
The first custodial sentence for wildlife smuggling in Australia was handed down Western Australia earlier this year. This was for attempted smuggling of 30 native lizards by two foreign nationals and one received a 12-month jail term. The sentence in today’s hearing was a 12-month suspended sentence, 378 hours community service and strict monitoring conditions.
The illegal international trade in endangered species has continued to grow at an alarming rate. In particular the levels at which elephants are being killed is disturbing – it is estimated that at least 25,000 to 50,000 elephants are slaughtered each year for their ivory, meaning that one elephant is killed every 15 minutes.