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Reptile smuggling is no teddy bears' picnic

A couple from Hong Kong have been arrested for attempting to smuggle reptiles out of Australia by hiding them inside teddy bears.

The 27-year-old man and 30-year-old woman were detained by customs officials in the city of Perth on Wednesday night.

A search led to the discovery of 12 bobtail lizards, several soft toys, packaging and postage material, according to a statement released by the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC).

Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation

A Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) officer slits open a teddy bear. A Hong Kong couple have been arrested in Perth, Australia, for attempting to export reptiles concealed inside teddy bears.

Authorities had been monitoring the pair after they allegedly made several attempts to post teddy bears overseas which contained more than 18 bobtail lizards, sand swimmer skinks and crevice skinks.

Over the past 12 weeks, a total of six packages in four consignments were intercepted by Customs and Border Protection at Perth Mail center, the statement said.

Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation

One of the bobtail lizards discovered after the arrest of two wildlife smugglers.

DEC senior wildlife investigator Rick Dawson said bobtail lizards were worth up to 7500 AUD ($8,000) on the Asian black market.

"While common in Western Australia, these lizards are highly sought after in Asia because they are easy to care for, attractive, and exotic," he said.

"In some instances the reptiles' eyes had been taped up, and the cold and cramped conditions they would have had to endure on a long journey without food or water in a cargo hold is abhorrent."

"This joint effort between Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Environment and Conservation demonstrates that we are committed to putting an end to this cruel practice."

The seized reptiles were due to be assessed by veterinary staff at Perth Zoo on Thursday.

Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation

A DEC officer examines one of the reptiles.

To learn more about the illegal trade in Asian wildlife, watch photographer Patrick Brown's project Black Market.