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Squirrels Intercepted At Brisbane Airport Spark Biosecurity Concerns

Two live squirrels have been intercepted at Brisbane Airport after an Australian resident returning from Bali allegedly attempted to smuggle them into the country.

Biosecurity and Australian Border Force (ABF) located the squirrels two weeks ago after information was received through Border Watch.

Both squirrels were euthanised due to biosecruity concerns, and the man is under investigation, ABF said on Thursday.

“Live animals from overseas can carry a range of serious diseases that are dangerous for Australian animals as well as humans," Head of Biosecurity Operations at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources Nico Padovan said.

“Squirrels can carry rabies, which is present in Bali, and if this disease was to arrive here the toll on human and animal health would be huge."

Padovan said worldwide more than 60,000 people die from rabies each year.

Squirrels coming in from Bali run the risk of carrying rabies. Image: Getty

But it isn't just humans authorities are concerned for, as live imports put at risk the nation's fragile ecosystem and agricultural industry, ABF Regional Commander Queensland Terry Price said.

“Further, the smuggling of wildlife is not only illegal but also very cruel and inhumane, with animals often smuggled for extended periods of time without sustenance and in confined space," Price added.

Biosecurity officers and sniffer dogs intercepted 346,000 risk items in our airports and seaports during the 2017-18 financial year.

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Some of these cases were particularly high-profiled.

Actor Johnny Depp's famous run-in with border patrol -- and more specifically Barnaby Joyce -- evidently didn't serve as a warning for NBL player Lamar Patterson.

Patterson's french bulldog Kobe was among the interceptions, when the American basketballer tried to bring his pet into the country in his carry-on luggage last month.

Security officials are warning Australians and visitors to think twice about what they try to bring into the country. Image: AAP

Now as Christmas approaches and the number of overseas arrivals and packages making their way into the country rises, officers are gearing up for more banned discoveries.

“We see a lot of Christmas items this time of year, such as wreaths, food, and wooden toys, which could carry pests and diseases and should always be declared," Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said in a statement.

“Everyone needs to be biosecurity aware when they travel and shop online."

The maximum penalty for biosecurity offences is up to five years in jail and fines of up to $63,000.

Contact the author vquested@networkten.com.au

Featured image: Getty Images