The brownstone office looked down on William Street in downtown Sydney a good brisk walk from Circular Quay, if you had the time and inclination, or a five minute trip by car, but certainly not in peak hour, a meeting was taking place. Five people sat around the large conference table. Members of a special undercover squad with rather unkept hair and stern looks all watched the man at the head of the table.
‘The situation is out of hand; Rottnest has lost its parrots and we are catching stupid people carrying one bird, reptile or snake, but not the organisation. God help us if these idiots ever tried harder. Who is running this show and how many are we missing. Our endangered species list grows by the day and it isn't enough that we slaughter our own animals indiscriminately but these bludgers are walking through our airports with rare parrots, snakes whatever all rolled up in magazines.
What I ask you is going out in bulk by ship by plane, by bloody UFO’s for god’s sake. It’s a well organised criminal organisation with international tentacles and lots of corruption’.
He sat back exasperated. Throwing his pen on the table he cast about at the concerned faces, ‘can someone have an idea – please’.
The air outside grew colder as tufts of mist off the road wafted past as the recent shower wet the windows steaming off the bitumen, shadowing the mood in the room.
‘These jokers have to be taught that here in Australia they can’t do what they like, we have laws, crappy ones at best but in the main our wildlife laws are strict - in a sense they are, and yes’, he answered with one raised eyebrow ‘we have lost more wildlife in 200 years than in all the years before, we must stop the rampant destruction or our kids will have to visit zoos just to see a parrot – blast, I love the little buggers coming in of a morning to my bird bath and seeder, they make my morning – I don’t want that to stop, but some bugger is causing this on a wide scale and I want his ass on a plate –now!’
Sam sat back, he agreed but passion wouldn't do it, human, on the ground intelligence was needed, but where to start, where was the operation, where. Ideas were thrown around but a starting point was needed, undercover work had used four squads, twenty men and nothing apart from several tourists had been caught. They needed a break and soon or parrots would disappear in one lifetime and a little girl would keep asking her father the same question –‘where have all the parrots gone Daddy’.
It wasn't just the parrots or the wildlife wallabies, tree kangaroos, quokkas and platypus were being taken, even from legal private zoos. The scope of the crimes were unknown but they were extensive and told of a large scale operation, well maintained and sourced and must be done with help from authorities all on the gangs payroll, that was the conclusion drawn from the meeting.
Sam didn’t have a clue –where to start – where?
The meeting had ended and disgruntled men and women trooped out frustration their companion.
‘Sam, before you leave how about a word? The large man, over six foot, an ex Aussie rules player he had been given this job to curb the export of Australian animals and the violence that followed when people got in the way.
‘What’s brought this on’, Sam asked.
His Boss tossed a loose lock of hair brushing it away the eyes travelled to the window and back to Sam –‘Can you keep a secret’?
‘Of course but-’,
‘No buts this is confidential and stays that way. Okay someone up top way up top had an episode –something has rattled him, something big. No I know but it’s a secret he had more of an epiphany – let’s call it a moment, something showed him that what we are doing is wrong and more emphasis should be put on saving the animals, in short not just the environment but the animals which are an important part –just as important as the sea life.
You see if the whales are lost the sea dies. Our unique ecology depends on our native animals for soil, plant and mineral conservation. The land will die if the animals disappear and the fauna –plants will die out and our way of life will suffer –evaporate was the word he used, evaporate just like that’, as he clipped his fingers. ‘No one has ever seen him so spooked’.
Christ’ said Sam, ‘what got to him?’
’Don’t know but he is telling treasury that more money is needed now – and they agree, it’s a bloody miracle, more money for agents from the treasury, but there it is.’
‘Now Sam, you caught the top man in the recent pedophile case and I am looking to you to get answers. the illegal wildlife trade is third only to that in drugs and human trafficking in scope and value; numbers in the order of tens of billions of dollars are at stake according to the Global Financial Integrity organisation, and CITES agrees that there are billions involved. The team has great agents and I am not playing favourites, but I have to depend on someone to get answers or my little girl will never speak to me again.
‘Well’, said Sam, ‘in the report black cockatoos, parrots and wallabies were highlighted. So because of your daughter I am going to concentrate on the birds and wallabies, basically the birds. International air traffic is well controlled maybe a cargo plane or my bet is a ship, comes in with legal cargo, goes out with mixed crates, and our stuff will be in some of them, not all as customs would be on to it, but trying to sort through all the cargo is a demons job. So I’m betting on the seas, so off to see somebody and I’ll travel up the east coast and stop when I get a sniff’.
‘Good but remember get backup if you get a bite, we will monitor your locator chip and your calls should use the ‘warrigal’ identity, okay’.
Sam smiled, ‘sure Boss and don’t worry we’ll find them’.
‘Yes that’s what worries me, if this is as big as I think you could be in for a shit-storm’
Sam wandered down the stairs to the basement where his turbo-charged Subaru was parked. He climbed in, checked the fuel level and headed for the Harbour Bridge and the road north, the hunt was on.
Sam pulled into a rest stop and pulling his laptop out he connected the system to global-net and checked his mail.
‘Nothing much but the reports indicates that these jokers are locals with professionally built cages –unusual right I’ll ring Colin and see'.
After talking to his friend in wildlife section of Dept. of Environment Colin informed him that they were scared and not of him, something about the delivery and they didn’t mind going to the lockup.
‘Jeeze Sam whatever you’re into watch yourself, these almost wet themselves at something’.
He signed off and called another contact at the police station in Taree.
‘Good day Jock, yeah I was talking to Colin, the jokers with the cages, parrots mainly but something about it, they were scared stiff according to Col. That case of yours, you think they were supplying on a regular basis, and there were what 14 cages, a bit much for a local operation don’t you think'.
‘Yes - what I thought local guys have become organised and it look as if they trap and then deliver to somebody, not on-sell as they use to. ‘I’m going to set myself up on the coast and do some snooping, do the usual, a bum on the lookout. Righto I’ll call in and then go over what you have, and move up towards Port, any contacts there, right see you soon’.