Australia is a one-of-a-kind destination for more reasons than one. It’s got stunning scenery, massive beaches, friendly locals, vibrant nightlife, and world-class arts and culture. It’s also got some of the most terrifying creatures on the face of the earth. If you’ve ever been, you know that bug spray is not enough to prepare you for encounters with Australia’s truly wild wildlife.
Tarantulas, snakes, dingoes eating babies – Australia could have its own film in the SAW franchise. That’s why the continent has such strict agricultural laws. The government is keen to protect citizens from wildlife and wildlife from citizens. But some Australians are just daring enough to try to break certain laws and bring their wacko creature contraband onto airplanes and out into the rest of the world.
Last year Australian airport biosecurity officers confiscated 340,000 items, according to their Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud. “Any one of the items could cause devastation to the agriculture industry, the environment or humans, through disease,” he explained to Australia’s New Daily press.
Prepare yourself to learn what some of these questionable items were. And send this post along to any friends who think that North American airport security agents have it tough. There’s nowhere quite as unexpected as the land Down Under. Read on for some freaky culinary facts, odd carry-on finds, and seized paraphernalia that just might haunt your nightmares.
19 Barbecued Rats
We’ve all heard that Australians love a good barbecue. But isn’t the stereotype something about ‘shrimp on the barbie?’ Rats are not something we’d expect anyone to love barbecuing, nonetheless to bring aboard a plane. Was the passenger hoping to whip them out for a light snack onboard? The airline has pretzels for that.
Needless to say, animal carcasses are not allowed on international flights. They even present risks to domestic trips within Australia. Minister Littleproud says that they “could be carrying deadly pests or diseases which could decimate Australian farming and our environment — or carry a disease affecting humans.” Also: they’re nasty.
18 Lizard Bits
Another one in the too-gross-to-imagine category is the lizard feet confiscated from an Australian airline passenger in 2017. Not full lizards; lizard feet. A bag of lizard feet.
These unusual animal extremities were seized by border security agents when an unnamed citizen attempted to bring them aboard a flight from Brisbane Airport. More than two-thirds of the weird items confiscated in Australia were seized at Sydney International Airport last year, but clearly Brisbane has biosecurity problems in its customs department, too. It’s unclear if the lizard bits were packed in the passenger’s bags for science, snacks, or just weird personal purposes, but no matter what, Brisbane security made sure these feet stayed firmly on Australian ground.
17 Cooked Eggs
If you ever want to bring food aboard planes, it has to follow strict rules set by the airline (and often, the country) you’re dealing with. Chips and chocolate bars bought within the airport are fair game. So are most souvenir snacks packed in your checked luggage. Animal byproducts are tricky items to take, as one Australian traveler learned last year.
Cooked eggs are a no-go on international flights because they present unique biosecurity threats. They’re on a no-fly list along with baby formula, powdered milk, and whole/dried egg products like raw noodles. They’re also a common allergen, so leaving them at home is best anyway. Flight attendants have enough to deal with without treating allergic reactions 35,000 feet up.
16 Parts Of A Duck
Who knew that anybody was interested in duck tongues, anyway? Apparently these bird bits are a popular snack and gourmet meal ingredient in parts of Southeast Asia. Australian airports confiscated them from a passenger this year who simply wanted to take them overseas to cook. No luck, duck.
It IS a good idea to bring your own food aboard planes sometimes. Simone Austin, accredited practising dietitian and spokesperson for the Dietitian's Association of Australia, recommends taken dried items on your next flight. Wet items like yoghurt risk being classified as liquids and confiscated anyhow. Unfortunately, even dried duck tongues won’t make it passed Australian security agents.
15 Not So Cute Sheep
Sheep stomach is another animal byproduct that is popular in certain international dishes. Haggis, for example, involves a mix of spices and grains cooked inside the lining of a sheep’s stomach and served as a kind of roast. Yet for all the pest and disease-related reasons listed above, sheep’s stomachs are not permitted in a passenger’s carry-on undeclared.
Even if a passenger was allowed to bring sheep stomachs onto planes aiming to eat them later, it would be completely unsafe for the passenger themselves as well as the rest of the people in the cabin. As Simone Austin explains: “First, food hygiene. Ask yourself how long you are going to have it unrefrigerated for.”
14 A Bunch Of Frogs
Poor froggos! Last year Sydney Airport officials seized a bunch of frogs, from a would-be passenger. These frogs were classified as contraband exported meat, as they were intended for resale and consumption abroad.
You would think that people in the business of selling exotic meats and animal products would know how to declare and export their wares legally instead of attempting to sneak them out of the country in a person’s luggage. With x-ray technology and sniffer dogs strolling around, smuggling through airports is a risky business! We wouldn’t want to attempt to get anything past the bio-security pros in Sydney.
13 3000kg of Seeds
Salted sunflower seeds are one thing, but agricultural seeds ready for sowing are definitely another. A clever but deviant passenger thought they could get seeds through customs by packing them into pill containers still in their original boxes. Security saw right through the canisters (literally, with x-rays) and confiscated all of them.
Seeds primed for planting are closely monitored by the Australian Department of Agriculture, because uncertified seeds can completely disrupt and take over crops that the country’s food security and GDP depend on. Seeds need to be imported and exported with care! Wherever you’re flying, check yourself for stray acorns and maple keys the next time you head to the airport to avoid trouble with biosecurity teams.
12 Live Tarantulas
All animal-related items listed so far have been rather bizarre choices. Here is another one: tarantulas that are ALIVE AND KICKING. Melbourne customs officers got a nasty surprise when they scanned boxes en route between Australia and Northern Europe in March of 2017.
The tarantulas were in a box labelled “two pair shoes,” according to Lyn O’Connell from Australia’s agricultural services. “Anyone who conceals reptiles or arachnids in small packages does not have the best interests of the animals – or Australia – at heart,” she said in a statement to Australian media. An official investigation was launched immediately after the spiders were discovered.
11 Bundles of Long Hair
Hair travels by itself more often than you might think. We’re not talking about the adventures that your stray strands have after they get sucked down your shower drain. Full heads’ worth of chopped hair gets imported and exported around the world every day as part of the global human hair trade.
The hair collected needs to be declared and properly packaged in order to pass through security officials at the front line of a country’s custom departments. Then it can be bought and sold by merchants and sewn into wigs and extensions and sold in stores. Undeclared and unprocessed human hair bunches in luggage? Australia ain’t letting that through these days.
10 Giant African Snails
If you think snails are cute and harmless, think again. The giant African snail confiscated in Sydney Airport last year is part of such a tough and predatory species that it can chew through walls and totally decimate certain plant populations in areas not native to its original habitat. That’s not something you want to introduce to a new country’s biodiversity!
These snails can live as long as ten years and grow to nearly a foot long. Yikes! When passengers tried to bring 67 of these snails across the world by hiding them in regular old picnic baskets, you can guess how unsuccessful their illegal ambitions were. Thank goodness.
9 Eggplant Inside Underwear
Fruits and vegetables aren’t allowed to cross certain borders for the same reasons that seeds aren’t. A 23-year-old passenger flying onto Melbourne Airport in 2009 must have known this, because he felt it was necessary to bring an eggplant into Australia by hiding it down the front of his underpants. We have never seen the eggplant emoji taken so literally.
Customs officers became suspicious of this guy for other reasons mentioned below (he had some live animals stuffed down his pant legs too, which we explain in list item number three). He’d actually sat through a whole flight into Melbourne from the Middle East with the eggplant squashed into his underwear! Was he planning on eating it eventually?
8 A Mr. Potato Head
We all know and love Mr. Potato Head. You can make him into anything you want: an angry man, a pretty lady, and apparently, even an international drug mule. In April of 2007 a squiggly-armed Mr. Potato Head was discovered to be carrying 293 grams of contraband items.
It was intercepted by Australian customs agents who were tipped-off that something illegal was on its way behind the friendly grin of this kids’ toy. "Whilst this is one of the more unusual concealments that we have seen in recent times, people need to be aware that Customs officers are alert to unusual and often outlandish methods of concealment," Australian customs official Karen Williams said at the time.
7 Snakes (Not Allowed) On a Plane
Morgan Freeman said it best. Snakes on a Plane might be fictional, but it’s not actually unusual for snakes to turn up in real Australian airports. One Aussie airport is even located in Snake Bay on the continent’s northern cost. We’re sure you can guess how that bay earned its name.
Three ball pythons, two hognose snakes, and six Wagler’s temple vipers, ALL LIVE AND VENOMOUS, were confiscated by Sydney customs officials on one fateful day in 2017. They never made it to their destination, and the people responsible were found and punished.
“If you try to send exotic snakes, we bite back with the full force of the law,” explained Lyn O’Connell.
6 A Stuffed Armadillo in a Cowboy Hat
In September 2004 Sydney Airport officials seized a taxidermy armadillo complete with armadillo-sized hat and little armadillo gun holsters. It was styled to look like a Texan cowboy, but it was actually a piggy-bank (armadillo-bank?) with a little slot in the back for change.
The weird stuffed object was intended to be a gift. The passenger was pretty disappointed to find out that he couldn’t bring it legally from the United States to Australia after he’d already arrived in Australia. Alas, strict Australian wildlife laws made this impossible.
Laws aside, Australian officials joked that “bad taste should have been enough of a reason not to bring [it] into the country.”
5 A Goat
Don’t look too closely at this picture, taken as evidence by Australian biosecurity officials. We’re sure that a goat fetus far from its due date is definitely not something meant to be seen by anybody. It’s too gross to even think about! Skipping the gory details, the news of this story broke in March 2018 when Sydney Airport’s biosecurity team confiscated the delicate cargo.
It’s unclear why someone was trying to smuggle the fetus of a goat out of the country. We can’t even speculate about the reasons. It can only be said that whoever thought they would get this mess through security without getting caught was not in their right mind at the time.
4 Bug-Infested Horse Hair Ceremonial Mask
“Biosecurity officers have intercepted some seriously strange stuff at the Gold Coast,” former Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce said publicly in 2015. One of the strangest of that year – and possibly of all time - was a horse-hair ceremonial mask which Joyce said was “crawling with live bugs.”
There were so any reasons that this mask wasn’t safe for international travel. Firstly: bugs count as wildlife that shouldn’t cross borders. Secondly: horse hair is an animal byproduct, duh. And the mask was an important artifact that shouldn’t be flying commercial in any case! In our opinion, it also looks potentially haunted. Keep its curses and bugs far away, please.
3 Live Pigeons in Pants
This is the eggplant man’s time to shine! That same underwear stuffer from 2009 also had TWO LIVE PIGEONS STRAPPED TO HIS LEGS. He successfully made the flight from Dubai to Melbourne with the birds hidden under his pants. Those birds took flight in a whole new way that day.
Australian Customs Services investigation manager Richard Janeczko said the pigeons were found wrapped in padded envelopes and stuck against the guy’s legs with a pair of tights. This just gets weirder and weirder. He also had undeclared eggs in his luggage (possibly belonging to those pigeons?). Despite all the research, Janeczko is still at a loss to explain why the man made this wild attempt.
2 Tropical Fish Skirt
An even more outlandish animals-stuffed-in-clothing moment happened in 2005, when a woman tried to make it through Melbourne Airport’s security screening with a secret skirt full of bags of fish under her dress. Reports of the incident say she was stopped by officials after they heard “flipping noises” coming from her body.
As it turned out, she had no less than 51 exotic and tropical fish under her belt – literally. The weird apron thing had 15 separate containers designed to hold bags of the fish secretly while she took an international flight. Luckily the flappy fish gave her away, and she was charged for smuggling. Didn’t she know that Nemo belongs in Australia with his fam?
1 A Bat
You made it to the number one most questionable thing confiscated at an Australian Airport! Your prize? The knowledge that one time, a crucified bat creeped its creepy way onto an Australian customs conveyor belt. Not just a bat. Not even just a crucifix. A crucified bat.
This bizarre object was discovered by Australian biosecurity officials last year and confiscated from a passenger’s luggage for breaking wildlife exportation laws. Its bony wings were pinned to a small-scale cross, complete with “Inri” inscription above its skull. Whether it was meant to be decorative, ceremonial, or just plain freaky, we’re not sure. We’re just completely certain that it’s disturbing AF. Share if you agree.