A woman has been sentenced after being busted trying to smuggle $10,000 worth of succulents and endangered cacti into New Zealand.
Auckland-based 31-year-old Wenquing (Wendy) Li was caught by sniffer dogs at Auckland Airport on 24 March 2019 with 947 succulents and cacti inside stockings she had strapped to her body.
The cacti included eight endangered and threatened species, bringing the total of her haul to over NZ$10,000 ($9,418).
After being noticed by the detector dogs, Li tried (unsuccessfully) to dispose of the plants in the airport toilets.
Ministry of Primary Industry (MPI) officers conducted a full search of the toilets and uncovered a large amount of plant material, including three stockings filled with succulents and cacti in one of the rubbish bins inside the men’s lavatory.
Li was also involved in a similar incident on 23 July 2019 when she was found in possession of 142 unauthorised seeds hidden in commercially packaged iPad covers in her luggage, as well as over 200 plant pots and garden ornaments wrapped in mouldy wet paper.
The plant pots were also found to contain a snail and pieces of tree fern stem.
According to a statement from MPI, Li was a seller and trader of succulents and cacti on TradeMe.
As a result, she was sentenced to intensive supervision for 12 months and 100 hours’ community work for smuggling succulents and endangered cacti into New Zealand.
MPI regional team manager of compliance investigations, Simon Anderson, said most people do the right thing when it comes to biosecurity at the border.
“This sentencing serves as a good reminder that anyone who smuggles plants or other endangered species into New Zealand can expect to be prosecuted,” he said.
“It’s important to remember that bringing unauthorised plants into the country by any method, whether smuggling through the border in person or receiving products by mail, puts New Zealand’s biosecurity at risk.”