A Cambodian woman has been found allegedly smuggling what's suspected to be a tiger pizzle, or penis, and a tiger gallbladder at Auckland Airport.
MAF Biosecurity New Zealand says the woman arrived from Singapore last Saturday and a detector dog signalled to the left hip of the woman, prompting his handler to undertake a full search which revealed a stocking tied around her waist and a plastic bag around her leg.
Further questioning revealed that the woman had hidden the pizzle on her hip, under her pants, where the dog had signalled, MAF Biosecurity says.
The woman, who was travelling with her daughter and husband, could be liable under the Biosecurity Act for a fine of up to $100,000 and/or five years imprisonment.
MAF Biosecurity says pending confirmation that the pizzle and gallbladder are from a tiger, the case will be considered for prosecution under the Trade in Endangered Species Act which also carries a fine of up to $100,000 and/or five years imprisonment.
Tiger is an endangered species and is protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
MAF Biosecurity says while some cultures value tiger parts for supposed medicinal benefit, the risk to the species is extreme.
Worldwide tiger populations are rapidly declining and all tiger species are endangered. Genuine tiger penises are rare and can be sold at inflated prices for use in adornment, rituals and medicines.
MAF Biosecurity Detector Dog Programme Manager, Craig Hughes says the find highlights the important role the detector dog teams play at the border and sends a strong signal to those thinking about smuggling illegal goods into New Zealand.
He says the Detector Dog Programme is an important part of MAF Biosecurity operations.
"Our dogs consistently find items that would otherwise prove difficult for our inspectors to locate," says Hughes.
In the 2008-09 year, MAF Biosecurity seized 126,500 biosecurity risk goods. The detector dog teams accounted for 9%, or 11,385, of those items.