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British wildlife expert hit with second fine for smuggling frogs and reptiles

CANBERRA – An award-winning British film producer and conservationist was hit with a second fine of 10,000 Australian dollars (US$7,400) on Monday for trying to smuggle more than 200 live frogs and reptiles out of Australia.

Michael Linley was arrested at Perth International Airport on Oct. 20, after customs officials found 217 frogs, lizards and snakes in his suitcases. Prosecutors said he was carrying 27 different species of Western Australian wildlife.

Under questioning, Linley admitted that he’d smuggled two spiny-tailed geckos out of the country in January.

Last Friday, the producer of the British wildlife program “Survival” was fined a total of A$10,000 (US$7,400) on two federal charges relating to the October and January incidents.

On Monday, he was ordered to pay a second fine of the same size for 31 state charges over the October smuggling attempt.

Linley had pleaded guilty to all the charges.

Magistrate Giuseppe Cicchini in Perth Magistrates Court on Monday also ordered Linley to pay costs.

The state charges carried a maximum fine of A$124,000 (US$92,000), while he could have been jailed for 10 years on the federal offenses.

Linley, 51, will be allowed to return to his home in Trowse, England, after he has paid the fines.

However, he has said he intends to return to Australia next year to fight a third federal charge _ yet to be heard by the court _ that he treated the animals cruelly while attempting to smuggle them out of the country in October.

Linley’s attorney Geoffrey Vickeridge said Friday that his client’s intentions had been good, though his actions had been foolish.

He said Linley _ who has worked for National Geographic and written several books on amphibians _ had been distressed by the number of animals he’d seen killed by traffic on Australia’s Outback roads.

Linley thought he’d be “saving the animals from being squashed from existence, that they had a better chance of survival if he took them to the UK,” Vickeridge said.

Wildlife officials set the animals free in the wild soon after they were discovered.

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