An Australian teacher was convicted of possessing and trafficking a huge cache of wildlife body parts that included skulls and teeth from tigers, orangutans and bears this week -- many of them from protected species. The haul is the largest recorded in Australia's history, at 78 items, 24 of which are from threatened species.
The teacher, John Kolettas, 44, was found guilty of 24 charges of possessing illegal wildlife products but only given a 12-month suspended sentence -- sentences that are held off and then usually thrown out if the offender obeys probation. He will be required to perform 384 hours of community service.
But conservationists say that the punishment for possessing the cache, which included 11 orangutan skulls and 25 other skulls of monkeys, should be steeper.
"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," Isabel McCrea, IFAW Oceania regional director told the Guardian. "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."