Biosecurity interceptions at the border
13 July 2011
Traveller risk profiling and detector dogs have proved their worth in helping protect New Zealand’s biosecurity, with the interception of fruit flies and bats with incoming passengers and mail.
Andrew Coleman, Acting Deputy Director-General Verification and Systems for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, says these two significant finds at the border show the kinds of dangerous things people might try to bring in.
“The finding of fruit flies brought in by an incoming traveller who did not declare plant material is of particular concern, because this insect could do so much damage here.
“But the interceptions show our systems work. We have well-trained staff and detector dogs as a safety net.
“The work at the border is an important part of New Zealand’s multi-layered biosecurity system, which also includes work overseas before product leaves its country of origin, as well as work within the border – finding and managing or eliminating pests that have established here.”
FRUIT FLY DETECTED AT WELLINGTON AIRPORT
An overseas visitor made a risky decision when she decided not to declare some plant items she was bringing in through Wellington airport.
The passenger, who was on her way from an Asian country [Monday 4 July], was targeted for inspection after quarantine inspector Godfrey Mandava identified her on the basis of risk profiling.
This is a new strategy that was introduced six weeks ago as part of the Direct Exit system, says MAF Verification team leader Andrew Curtis. While passengers can choose their exit lane, every passenger is risk-assessed by MAF in some way either by an inspector or behind the scenes using risk profiling, new technology and better information.
A search of this passenger revealed dangerous hitchhikers in the plant material she carried – fruit fly eggs and maggots.
The fruit fly family includes some very destructive species that would cause considerable harm to New Zealand’s horticulture industry if they became established here.
“The interception shows the system works,” says Andrew. “We catch the ones we need to catch.”
The passenger was given an infringement notice and required to pay a fine of $400.
A specialist laboratory in Christchurch confirmed the suspect insects belong to the fruit fly family. The lab is now following up with DNA testing to find out what species they are and where they are from.
DEAD BATS INTERCEPTED AT INTERNATIONAL MAIL CENTRE
At the Auckland international mail centre detector dog Dharma got excited [on Thursday July 7] about a parcel from North America that looked like any other on the belt to her handler Edmund Wong.
But the 18-month old’s keen sense of smell combined with her training told her this was a high-risk item.
Edmund, who’s been working with the kelpie-springer spaniel cross since May, opened it up to find 9 dead bats each attached to a piece of card.
The quarantine inspection team is now investigating the origin and the destination of the parcel, as well as how the bats might need to be treated and whether they come under the jurisdiction of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Edmund is very pleased with young Dharma’s work. “There was no hesitation. She was bang on. She did exactly what we’ve trained her to do.”
As a reward for a job well done, Dharma got a toy and lots of praise.
The New Zealand Biosecurity Institute, of which the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) is a member, has designated July as Biosecurity month.
MAF has the lead role in managing the country’s biosecurity, with a strategy of managing risk and providing layers of protection and response.
Ph (04) 894 0471 or 029 894 0471
OR Call the MAF Media phoneline: 029 894 0328