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Border finds: in terrariums and children's furniture

This terrarium was intercepted at the Sydney Airport mail centre, as it contained shrimp eggs that carry diseases exotic to Australia

Thinking of buying terrariums online?

When gift shopping online, make sure your purchase doesn’t provide an unwelcome surprise on arrival in Australia. One popular gift idea over the recent holiday season has been self-sustaining terrariums. Biosecurity officers at the Sydney Gateway Facility have intercepted twelve terrariums since October 2016.

One particular type of terrarium intercepted – The Terrasphere Zero – is marketed as a water-based terrarium that cleans and feeds itself, and can last for years with very little maintenance. Each terrarium contains live moss balls, fertiliser, food, sand, brine shrimp eggs (which are often marketed as ‘sea monkeys’) and wood.

When the terrarium’s components are combined, this creates the environment required for the brine shrimp eggs to hatch after a few days. Brine shrimp eggs may carry a range of fungal, bacterial, and viral diseases exotic to Australia. For this reason, current import conditions require eggs to be dried, washed, and sterilised in a chemical solution prior to arrival. This addresses the biosecurity risk and the chance of disease transmission to native animals.

After being intercepted by our biosecurity officers, the prohibited materials were destroyed.

It’s important to be biosecurity aware when you shop online. For a list of things that can’t be posted to Australia, visit Bringing or mailing goods to Australia.

If you’re sending or bringing gifts or souvenirs to Australia, you can check what to avoid, what may require treatment, and what we suggest as a safe option.


Conifer auger beetle. Photo: Simon Hinkley & Ken Walker Museum Victoria

Nasty surprises coming out of the woodwork

Biosecurity officers recently had to leap into action when conifer auger beetle (Sinoxylon conigerum) was detected in a consignment of children’s toys and furniture imported from Vietnam.

The detection was reported to the Museum of Victoria by a member of the public, and a sample was then provided to the department’s Operational Science Services, who confirmed the identity of the pest. A traceback was initiated for the goods that had already been sold, and the importer was directed to hold all remaining unsold stock.

It was then discovered that the goods had been onsold through a third party retailer to childcare centres in five different states. While the retailer’s client list and stock numbers were being confirmed, a further four clients came forward reporting damaged goods. A total of about 300 goods had been sold, with 230 items remaining in retail stores and warehouses.

Because of the number of detections and the size of the client list, the department issued recommendations for a targeted public recall of all remaining stock.

The importer opted to have all stock returned to their Melbourne warehouse for verification and mandatory treatment. The goods were treated using cold storage before being released back to the importer, and the overseas fumigator was suspended.

Conifer auger beetles attack the sapwood of hardwoods, green or seasoned timber and freshly cut trees. They can attack almost any woody plant, and can cause significant damage to timber items that are ineffectively treated for timber pests.

Timber pest activity is not always obvious and may not be seen until long after an item has been imported. Any signs of pest activity in imported timber products must be reported to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as soon as possible.


These articles have been reproduced from the February 2017 edition of the newsletter Biosecurity Matters, by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water.

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