Search for smugglers who tried to mail geckos

May 20, 2008 5:45:43 AM PDT

Most of the leaf-tail geckos were found dead from lack of air, food and water when the parcels were opened by Australia Post, said a statement from the Customs Service. Those that survived were being looked after by wildlife activists.

The smuggling attempts appeared to be linked, with each parcel addressed to the Czech Republic. They were mailed from four different Australian cities.

"The general method seems to have been to send more than one gecko in each parcel and hope that at least one of them survived the journey," Richard Janeczko, national manager of investigations, said in the statement.

Investigators were working in Australia and with Czech authorities to put a stop to the smuggling network, he said.

The vibrant colors and unique characteristics of many Australian species of flora and fauna make them attractive to smugglers and overseas collectors.

Wildlife smuggling carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and fines of up to $96,000.