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Duck kidneys, toads, and birds’ nests: The weird items seized at Australian airports

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell May11,2024
Key Points
  • In 2023, biosecurity officers seized hundreds of tonnes of items deemed a risk to Australia at airports nationwide.
  • The Department of Agriculture, Forestries and Fisheries revealed some of its weirdest finds, including live animals.
  • Consult our map to see the most bizarre item confiscated at your nearest airport.
From chicken intestines to live toads, biosecurity officers seize hundreds of tonnes of bizarre items deemed a risk to Australia every year.
Anyone entering Australia must declare certain foods, plant materials and animal products, with biosecurity officers authorised to inspect luggage that might not comply with the rules.
In 2023, 19 million international travellers arrived in Australia, with over a third of them — 7.5 million — undergoing biosecurity screenings.

Nearly 400,000 items were confiscated from passengers trying their luck at Australia’s international airports, according to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).

An infographic showing the number of items seized at Australian airports in 2023, highlighting the most common items like Beef, pork, rice, spices and chillies, as well as penalities incurred.

Biosecurity detector dogs intercepted a further 32,000 items last year.

DAFF revealed that biosecurity breaches also prompted the cancellation of 22 visas between October 2019 and December 2023.

What kind of items are considered a biosecurity risk?

Australia has strict biosecurity rules to protect native flora and fauna from the spread of unwanted pests, diseases and weeds, with food items often seized at airports.
Sydney and Melbourne airports had the highest number of interceptions — one in three items found to have breached biosecurity rules were detected in Sydney.

Common household items are regularly found in suitcases, such as spices or beef, but other finds are a little more bizarre.

A map of Australia showing a risky item seized at major aiports across the country, including dried duck kidneys, a live toad, birds' nests and chicken intestines.

Last year, a Canberra biosecurity officer found a traveller trying to import water considered sacred from the Ganges River in India.

In Perth, a passenger trying to enter the country had packed a whole banana tree, complete with its root system and soil, into their luggage.

Goods entering the country via the sea are also closely monitored, with several seasonal pests detected during vessel inspections in 2023.

DAFF said intercepting these items during biosecurity screenings is vital to protecting Australia’s $78 billion agriculture industry.

An infographic showing the number of vessels inspected in 2023, as well as the seasonal pests detected.

“Keeping Australia free of exotic pests and diseases that wreak havoc in other countries is one of our most important tasks as a nation,” a DAFF spokesperson said in a statement.

“Our biosecurity system safeguards our environment, industries, plant and human health from exotic pest and disease risks.”
Of particular concern in Australia is the spread of, African swine fever, Xylella (a bacterial disease that affects plants), and the khapra beetle (which can infest grain supplies and make it inedible).
The exotic diseases and pests have the potential to devastate Australia’s crop and livestock industries, which are worth $46 billion and $32 billion respectively.

The department warned that those failing to declare risky items can cop significant financial penalties, with fines issued ranging from $626 to $6,260.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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One thought on “Duck kidneys, toads, and birds’ nests: The weird items seized at Australian airports”
  1. Wow, it’s fascinating to learn about the bizarre items seized at Australian airports! The efforts to protect Australia’s unique ecosystem are truly commendable. It’s surprising to see the variety of things people try to bring into the country. Kudos to the biosecurity officers for their vigilance!

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