The Wildlife Smugglers

The Wildlife Smugglers

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Black cockatoo

A black cockatoo - endangered in some parts of Australia

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The global illegal trade in wildlife is worth up to 25 billion US dollars a year, making it one of the world's biggest sources of criminal earnings.

With lower fines and shorter prison terms compared to drugs or weapons smuggling it's attracting organised criminals, looking for big money and low risk.

Some estimates now put the trade second to drug smuggling - with endangered animals becoming the new blood diamonds, funding war and terror.

Despite its tough smuggling laws, Australia is one of the countries counting the cost.

Some of its rare and unique birds and reptiles are poached, smuggled and sold by international criminal gang networks.

Sharon Mascall spent four months tracking this trade across Australia to find out why its wildlife is under serious threat.

She speaks to wildlife investigators using surveillance operations and a variety of other methods to catch the smugglers.

As her journey in Australia continues - she speaks to customs officers, bird breeders and dealers, and bird watchers with a genuine affection for wildlife.

Sharon also manages to attract the attention of some of the region's top smugglers along the way.

First broadcast Friday 6 February 2009

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