Australian student who sold monkey skull to ‘people from Pirates of the Caribbean’ fined

A few years ago, one of those Johnny-Depp-pirate movies — it may have been 5 — was filming down the highway at the Gold Coast.

The set was plagued by drama when it was discovered Depp and then wife Amber Heard had illegally brought two dogs into the country.

This prompted deputy premier Banaby-the-bloody-carp Joyce (right, not exactly as shown) to question Depp’s acting ability after the couple apologized, which shows how small Australia is because now Joyce is embroiled in his own scandalous activities, involving humans, not pets.

Behind the sideshow of movie making, divorce and apologies, a Canberra university student was on Thursday fined for illegally possessing and importing exotic animal remains into Australia, in a case that has shed some light on the shadowy world of wildlife trade.

Alexandra Back of the Canberra Times reports that for years, avid collector Brent Philip Counsell, 28, dealt in what a magistrate described as a “macabre” trade of skulls and animal specimens, once selling a primate skull to the people making the Pirates of the Caribbean movie in Brisbane.

In 2016 authorities from the department of environment raided Counsell’s home in Deakin where they found and seized about 100 animal specimens from the living room and bedroom.

Australian environment law makes it illegal to either possess or import protected exotic animal specimens without a permit.

Over several years, Counsell either illegally imported or possessed a small primate skull threaded on a necklace, the skulls of a brown bear and a gibbon, a taxidermy buzzard, water monitor lizard, and teeth from a bear and a hippopotamus tooth.

When he spoke to investigators, Counsell admitted possessing and selling species from his website wulfe.com.au, which he had since shut down.

One of the charges stemmed from an admission Counsell made to authorities after they had searched his home, that he had sold a primate skull to the “people” behind the Pirates of the Caribbean movie that was filming in Brisbane.

He tried to avoid detection, and prosecutors found on his phone articles that offered tips about how to send skulls overseas without being noticed by customs.

Biosecurity? Australian federal lab sues contractor after fridge power left off, rare samples destroyed

A simple flick of the switch has allegedly cost the CSIRO millions of dollars and destroyed years of painstaking research

airplane.plug.johnnyIn an extraordinary civil case, the government’s national science agency is suing an occupational safety company for accidentally leaving the power off to a fridge containing extremely rare samples collected for plant and crop research.

Scientists at the CSIRO’s Black Mountain complex first noticed something was wrong in February 2006. 

A distinct smell was coming from a fridge in the Herbarium Microbiology Laboratory.

The fridge was used to store a rare collection of rhizobia, soil bacteria that live on the roots of legumes, helping to fix nitrogen in a process called “biological nitrogen fixation”.

The CSIRO says the collection, being used for advanced crop research, took years to collect and was worth “many millions” of dollars.

Some of the strains were obtained from the most remote, arid areas of Australia.

Upon investigation of the smell, a scientist quickly found the fridge to be turned off at the power point.

The CSIRO has launched action in the ACT Supreme Court against four defendants, Testel Australia Pty Ltd, Thermal Air Services Pty Ltd, and two associated individuals.

It alleged that the power was turned off to enable equipment to be plugged into a testing device, before being plugged back in at the wall. 

The power switch, however, was allegedly never turned back on.

Sabotage continues on Australian crops; biosecurity measures prevented latest attack

A saboteur who tried to poison a large strawberry crop in Queensland, Australia, has been foiled by tight security measures introduced after a similar attack in 2009.

Gowinta Farms at Beerwah, on the Sunshine Coast, would have been facing multi-million dollar losses if staff had not discovered poison in the farm’s water stores.

Spokesman James Ashby said up to 170 acres of strawberries would have been lost and the incident, detected on Tuesday, was a lesson for all farmers about the importance of good security.

After the 2009 attack, which destroyed a greenhouse crop of tomatoes and cucumbers, the farm imposed a system to drain water tanks at the end of each day and regularly test water quality.

As a result, the presence of the poison was obvious to staff on Tuesday morning, Mr Ashby said.

Meanwhile, police are still trying to find those responsible for a crop sabotage incident at Bowen in north Queensland in June last year.

In that incident, Bowen Supa Seedlings lost more than seven million fruit and vegetable seedlings, destined to become crops for dozens of local growers, when its irrigation system was contaminated with herbicide.

A neighbouring property that shared the irrigation system lost more than 16,000 mature tomato plants.