26 Jan 2010

German jailed after lizards found in underwear

6:52 pm on 26 January 2010

A German man who tried to smuggle live lizards in his underwear out of New Zealand has been jailed.

Hans Kubus was caught trying to board a flight at Christchurch airport in December last year with 24 native geckos and 20 skinks concealed in an eight-compartment pouch sewn into his underwear.

Kubus, 58, pleaded guilty to trading in endangered species and hunting protected wildlife.

He appeared in Christchurch District Court on Tuesday where he was jailed for three-and-a-half months and fined $5000.

The Department of Conservation says it is happy with the sentence. Prosecutor Mike Bodie says if it wasn't for customs staff at the airport, the animals would now be in the hands of European collectors.

Conservation officer Jack van Hal says native reptiles are already under threat from habitat loss and predators and New Zealanders should be worried that endangered species are being smuggled out of the country.

Ms van Hal says the department cannot release the lizards back into the wild unless it knows the specific capture site and can be sure that they are free of disease. The department is looking at other options.