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Man fined for trying to smuggle frogs
( 2003-12-13 09:28) (Agencies)

An award-winning British film producer and conservationist was fined $7,400 on Friday for trying to smuggle more than 200 live frogs and reptiles out of Australia.

Michael Linley was arrested at Perth International Airport on Oct. 20, after customs officials found 217 frogs, lizards and snakes in his suitcases. Prosecutors said he had 27 different species of Western Australian wildlife.

Linley, producer of the British wildlife program "Survival," pleaded guilty to 31 state and two federal charges of attempting to smuggle protected animals.

He also told police that he'd smuggled two spiny-tailed geckos out of the country in January, leading to one of the federal charges.

"Why someone with your antecedents would do such an incredibly stupid thing, other than to facilitate your film, is very hard to understand," Judge Henry Jackson told Linley in Western Australia's District Court on Friday.

Linley was only sentenced Friday over the two federal charges. He was due to be sentenced on the state charges for which he faces a maximum fine of $92,000 on Monday.

Linley's attorney Geoffrey Vickeridge said his client had good intentions, though his actions had been foolish.

He said Linley, who has worked for National Geographic and written several books on amphibians, had been distressed by the number of animals he'd seen killed by traffic on Australia's Outback roads.

Linley thought he was "saving the animals from being squashed from existence that they had a better chance of survival if he took them to the U.K.," Vickeridge said.

Linley also intended to film the animals under controlled conditions at home in Britain, Vickeridge said.

Outside court, Linley apologized to the Australian people and said he'd acted out of stupidity.

"It might appear that I have got off lightly, but it will be with me for the rest of my life," he said.

Wildlife officials have set the animals free.

 
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