Monday, February 1, 2010

New Zealand jails German caught with 44 lizards in pants

Man will spend 14 weeks behind bars and must pay a fine before being deported

Wellington, New Zealand Associated Press

A German man who stuffed 44 small lizards into his underwear before trying to board a flight has been sentenced to prison in New Zealand for plundering the country's protected species.

Hans Kurt Kubus, 58, will spend 14 weeks behind bars and must pay a $5,000 New Zealand ($3,760) fine before being deported to Germany as soon as he is released, District Court Judge Colin Doherty ruled on Tuesday.

Mr. Kubus was caught by wildlife officials at Christchurch International Airport on South Island in December, about to board an overseas flight with 44 geckos and skinks in a hand-sewn package concealed in his underwear.

He admitted trading in exploited species without a permit and hunting absolutely protected wildlife without authority, pleading guilty to two charges under the Wildlife Act and five under the Trade in Endangered Species Act.

Department of Conservation prosecutor Mike Bodie told the court Mr. Kubus could have faced potential maximum penalties of $500,000 and six months in prison.

Mr. Bodie said the department sought a deterrent sentence for “the most serious case of its kind detected in New Zealand for a decade or more.”

The geckos may have been worth €2,000 ($3,000) each on the European market, he noted.

Customs records showed that Mr. Kubus had also been to New Zealand in 2001, 2004, 2008, and 2009. In 2008, he had been with a Swiss reptile dealer.

Judge Doherty said Mr. Kubus had come to New Zealand and set about poaching the animals in a premeditated way that would have had an impact on particular colonies.


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