Australian biosecurity intercepts mummified pig foetus mailed from overseas

By Melissa Coade

Monday July 19, 2021

People are always taking biosecurity risks.
People are always taking biosecurity risks. (uskarp2/Adobe)

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) has disclosed that a mummified pig foetus was among international parcels that people have recently attempted to send to Australia.

DAWE’s acting head of biosecurity, Dr Chris Parker, said the pig foetus joined his list of other strange prohibited items that people have tried to bring into the country (either via post or through airports).

When the department dived into its archives, public servants unearthed records of attempts to  smuggle in deer genitalia, a taxidermy black bear, money bones, skinned frogs, horse dung and roasted otter.

The pig foetus and freeze-dried quails were among some of the more recent finds, which both posed an animal health risk, Parker explained.

“Quails and other poultry can carry Avian Influenza, which is a serious disease of poultry and can cause high mortality in production birds,” he said. 

“A few years back we also intercepted deer genitalia at Cairns Airport, which could carry animal biosecurity risks, including foot and mouth disease.”

A 2018 incident – which Parker said was one of the more surprising and serious — involved an Australian resident returning from Bali with two live squirrels concealed on their body.  The animals were allegedly shipped inside check-in luggage and were put down after they were deemed to be a national biosecurity risk. 

“Squirrels can carry rabies — which is present in Bali — and if this disease were to arrive here the toll on human and animal health would be huge.”

Parker noted that although the number of people arriving into Australia had significantly decreased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the volume of mail coming into the country was increasing. 

In 2020 alone biosecurity offices reviewed over 60,000 parcels at Australia’s international mail centres — 55,000 of these parcels contained seeds. Another 3,000 parcels contained pork products.

“This means the biosecurity risks facing Australia will also increase,” Parker said. 

“While COVID has impacted on the number of passengers arriving, we have continued to intercept food, meat and seeds. These are some of the more common risk items we intercept at airports and mail centres,” he said.

Australia has strict penalties for breaching its biosecurity laws, and since 2019 authorities have cancelled 14 visas on the basis of bio-security related grounds. 

Parker said that by being aware of Australia’s rules, people could avoid serious penalties.

“This is why it is so important that everyone follows our biosecurity conditions when travelling or importing goods to Australia—including online shoppers.”

More information about Australia’s biosecurity laws can be found on the DAWE website.


READ MORE:

New national biosecurity website collates key information from across governments

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