Man convicted over orangutan, tiger skulls in Australia

SYDNEY - A man was Friday convicted on 24 charges of possessing illegal wildlife products, including orangutan and tiger skulls, following the biggest seizure of such items in Australian history.

John Kolettas, 44, pleaded guilty after police raided his Sydney home last year and found 78 illegal products made from 24 threatened species.

They included 11 orangutan skulls and 25 other skulls of monkeys, lynx, bears and a tiger. Other items included teeth and skins from orangutans, lynx, otters, and a feather headdress made from a bird of paradise.

Kolettas was jailed for a year, fined Aus$4,000 (US$3,700) and ordered to do 384 hours of community service for the possession of specimens listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

"Wildlife trafficking is a cruel and often barbaric trade that has become more widespread and lucrative and is now valued at billions of dollars worldwide," said the department of environment.

"The community - particularly collectors, travellers and online shoppers - should be aware of what they are buying, what it is made of, and where it is from.

"Without realising it they may be contributing to the decline of threatened species, simply by purchasing what initially looks like a bargain." Australia is one of 178 nations that are signatories to CITES, with the importation of endangered species, or parts of them, illegal without a permit.