Echidna, wallabies among seized animals

Wildlife officers say they have seized almost 100 exotic animals and birds, including cockatoos, echidnas and wallabies, that had been smuggled into the Philippines for sale to wealthy collectors.

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The cache, hidden in small containers in a van, was made up of wildlife from Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, said Eric Gallego, spokesman for the local office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

They included yellow-crested cockatoos and long-beaked echidnas, two species listed as “critically endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

They also included four wallabies from Australia and about 90 exotic parrots from Indonesia, said Gallego.

Several of the birds or animals had died, possibly from the stress of long travel in harsh conditions, he said.

Law enforcers acting on a tip stopped a van with the wildlife and two attendants in the southern city of Surigao on Mindanao island on Saturday, just as the vehicle was about to board a ship heading north.

The birds and animals are believed to have been shipped from Indonesia to Malaysia and then across the maritime border to the southern Philippines where they would be taken to Manila, said Gallego.

“There must have been an order from a rich person in Manila for the animals as collector’s items. It must be someone who is into rare animals,” he told AFP.

The head of the government’s wildlife division Josefina de Leon said a crime syndicate with members from different countries was known to be smuggling rare animals from Malaysia into the southern Philippines.

Two men caught with the van will be charged with illegally transporting wildlife, a crime punishable up to six months in jail and a 50,000-peso ($A1,245) fine depending on the rarity of the animals involved.

Boat trespass won’t happen again: Morrison

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison is confident there won’t be a repeat of Australian border-protection vessels entering Indonesian waters.

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A Defence and Customs review has found Australian ships inadvertently entered Indonesian territory six times in December and January.

“On each occasion the incursion was inadvertent, in that each arose from incorrect calculation of the boundaries of Indonesian waters, rather than as a deliberate action or navigational error,” the review says.

Mr Morrison described the breaches as accidents.

“It’s very clear from the government’s policies and operational instructions that operations were to be done only where it was safe to do so and they were not to incur on Indonesian sovereign territory within 12 nautical miles of the archipelagical (sic) baseline,” Mr Morrison told Macquarie Radio.

“It was an accident.”

He said measures were in place to ensure there were no repeat incidents.

The minister confirmed formal apologies to Indonesia took place weeks ago.

The joint review examines all patrols by navy and customs vessels on Operation Sovereign Borders between December 1 and January 20.

Customs has released only the executive summary of the review, which does not disclose what the Australian vessels were doing when they entered Indonesian waters, or how far they intruded.

There had been speculation they might have been towing back asylum seeker boats.

A range of policies and procedures will now be reassessed, and the chiefs of the navy and customs will consider if there were any lapses in professional conduct.

Training for Australian crews involved in Operation Sovereign Borders will be amended to emphasise staying outside Indonesian waters.

Labor’s immigration spokesman, Richard Marles, called for the full report to be released.

“Serious implications remain in terms of our relations with Indonesia,” he told AAP.

“The statement released today highlights a systemic problem arising out of this government’s border-protection policy.”

Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young indicated she would demand the full report be tabled in the Senate.

Question mark over Myles at Titans

The injury cloud over X factors Albert Kelly and David Taylor has cleared, but Gold Coast coach John Cartwright admits co-captain Nate Myles might not be so lucky.

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Cartwright gave the green light to exciting half Kelly (foot, rib) and blockbusting forward Taylor (corked knee) for their final NRL trial against the North Queensland at Toowoomba on Saturday night, despite the pair missing Wednesday’s training session.

It’s a shot in the arm for the Titans before their NRL season opener away to the Sharks on March 10.

However, the jury is out on whether Myles (groin) will take his place in the first round after Cartwright appeared uncertain about the inspirational forward’s availability.

Initially, the Titans had hinted only players named in their final trial squad would be considered for their NRL opener against Cronulla.

But Cartwright is keeping the door open for workaholic Myles.

“We will have to give him another week leading into the Sharks game,” he said.

“If he is not 100 per cent, we are not going to push him. He has another long season ahead of of him.”

Cartwright also put a line through the name of enforcer Ryan James (shoulder) for the weekend trial.

“It’s more precautionary,” he said. “We don’t want him going into the season with a niggle. We will consider using him in the Queensland Cup (before the NRL opener).”

Five-eighth Aidan Sezer (hamstring) has been cleared, while rookie recruit Paul Carter appears to have first crack at hooker.

Titans trial team: Will Zillman, David Mead, Maurice Blair, Brad Tighe, Kevin Gordon, Aidan Sezer, Albert Kelly, Luke Bailey, Paul Carter, Luke Douglas, Greg Bird (capt), Ben Ridge, Ashley Harrison. Interchange: Dave Taylor, Matt White, Mark Minichiello, Sam Irwin, Mark Ioane, Anthony Don, Kalifa Fai Fai Loa, Siuatonga Likiliki, Jamie Dowling, Brad Takairangi, Matt Beddow.

Watson will only return as allrounder

Shane Watson will only return to the Test side if he’s fit enough to bowl, according to Michael Clarke.

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Watson is approaching a level of fitness where he could play as a specialist batsman, but Clarke suggested that would not happen on the three-Test tour of South Africa.

“The information I have from the selectors is if he’s not bowling, he’ll be unavailable for selection,” Clarke said of Watson, who is recovering from a calf injury.

As such it is unlikely national selectors will have to make a tough decision on how to fit Watson in their XI until at least March 1, when the third Test starts in Cape Town.

When news broke of Watson’s calf issue 10 days ago, team physio Alex Kountouris suggested the plan was for the allrounder to “be able to train unrestricted by two or three days’ out (from a Test)”.

Watson batted in the nets on Tuesday, but instead of taking part in the main fielding session he completed some short shuttle runs at limited pace under the watchful eye of team doctor Peter Brukner.

There is no obvious candidate to be dropped for Watson, but Clarke was keen to have the allrounder back in the side as soon as possible.

“It’s a good problem to have, Any time you’ve got a class all-rounder available you’ve got to try and find some room,” he said.

“He’s a huge player for us, so the sooner we can have Watto back I think the better for this team.”

In the absence of Watson, Clarke is likely to again throw the ball to part-time medium pacer David Warner.

Warner, who is now charging in off his long run-up instead of sending down leg-breaks at training, finished with figures of 0-3 from two overs in the first Test.

“It’s been good fun working with him, he’s actually a pretty good student,” paceman Peter Siddle said of the dynamic Australia opener.

“He’s been in the nets working on his little off-cutters and leg-cutters.

“They’re coming out alright.”

Young Bomber to miss AFL season

Two young Essendon players have personified the best and worst of life in the AFL.

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The Bombers announced a two-year contract extension on Wednesday for forward Nick Kommer, only hours after confirming utility Alex Browne will not play again in 2014 because of a knee reconstruction.

Browne, 21, has played eight games in three seasons, including no senior matches through an injury-interrupted 2013.

Browne ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament during Monday night’s pre-season game against the Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium.

“Alex was very unlucky,” club doctor Bruce Reid said on Essendon’s website.

“His leg got caught under his body on the field and as a result he has torn his cruciate and medial ligament.

“Unfortunately, he does need a full, traditional reconstruction.”

Essendon coach Mark Thompson said Browne had been enjoying his best pre-season campaign.

“While it’s a long road to recovery for players who require reconstructions, we have no doubt that Alex will come back stronger,” Thompson said.

Ruckman Tom Bellchambers (ankle) is also on the sidelines, and is expected to miss the first month of the season.

Meanwhile, Kommer has signed a two-year extension that ties him to the Bombers until the end of the 2016 season.

The 23-year-old made his senior debut in 2013 and played 19 games after being drafted from East Perth as a mature-age recruit.

“We have a pretty strong midfield, so I will keep working up forward and try to have more of an impact on the scoreboard, but hopefully I can push through there over time,” Kommer said.

Thompson said Kommer was rewarded for his outstanding debut.

“To play 19 games in his debut season is a credit to the way he attacks his football and he has become an important part of our forward line structure,” he said.

“Nick knows he has a lot to build on, but he has shown glimpses of his potential and we’re really excited about his future.”