Keerthi Raja Eswaran, 34, leaves the NT Supreme Court with lawyer Peter Maley after pleading guilty to his latest batch of wildlife offending. Picture: Craig Dunlop
Keerthi Raja Eswaran, 34, leaves the NT Supreme Court with lawyer Peter Maley after pleading guilty to his latest batch of wildlife offending. Picture: Craig Dunlop

‘Animal lover’ guilty over animal skulls

AN outlaw "conservationist" faces a potential stint in jail after pleading guilty to running an online business selling protected animal specimens from his home in Palmerston.

Keerthi Raj Eswaran, 34, of Millner, pleaded guilty in the Supreme Court on Tuesday to attempting to export a king colobus monkey skull and a red tailed cockatoo skull, attempting to take a straw-necked ibis skull and an orange footed scrubfowl skull out of the Northern Territory and possessing a pair of wedge tailed eagle feet, a Burdekin duck skull, three magpie geese skulls, greater crested grebe skin and feathers and a saltwater crocodile skull.

Eswaran also pleaded guilty to a possessing ammunition without a license or permit.

He is expected to plead guilty to further wildlife charges at a later date.

Eswaran, an Indian national, was in 2017 jailed for 10 months, fully suspended, before continuing to offend against wildlife trafficking laws.

Commonwealth prosecutor Emily Baxter said investigators uncovered Eswaran sending the monkey and cockatoo skull to a collector in Illinois, United States.

The ibis and scrub fowl skulls were destined to a customer in Victoria.

Some of the skulls found at Eswaran’s Driver home. Picture: Supplied/Australian Border Force
Some of the skulls found at Eswaran’s Driver home. Picture: Supplied/Australian Border Force

 

Australian Border Force investigators found Eswaran advertising animal specimens for sale on eBay and a raid on his Eswaran's former house in Driver found a pile of skulls near the shed door and a white bucket that smelt of rotting fish, in which Eswaran was using chemicals to dissolve animal flesh off of bones.

 

Eswaran poses for a photo for the NT News in 2013.
Eswaran poses for a photo for the NT News in 2013.

 

Investigators also found seven wombat skulls, which Eswaran said in an interview he chopped off of roadkill in New South Wales before packing them in salt and flying back to Darwin with them in a suitcase.

Text messages on his phone showed he was willing to sell everything from rat skeletons to lion skulls, which he said he could source from his "supplier in Africa".

Among the other outlaw specimens police found were chipmunk tails and an ocelot skull.

Eswaran's lawyer, Peter Maley, said his client was had long shown a "dedication to conservation of the environment".

"He's an avid bird watcher … but his primary passion is animals, particularly reptiles," Mr Maley said.

"He has also stuffed a lot of pets, dogs and cats, for people across Darwin who have lots their pet dog or cat.

"He is an avid cane toad buster. There are groups that go out usually once a fortnight an kill cane toads."

"I know there are members of the public service, here from Parks and Wildlife and he would love to work in Parks and Wildlife."

Mr Maley said it "seems almost preposterous" that his client could end up in jail and asked he be assessed for home detention or community custody order.

Justice Peter Barr is expected to sentence Eswaran on 22 May.



Over a million litres of sewage dumped into river

premium_icon Over a million litres of sewage dumped into river

Council dealt with a $15,000 fine after failing to detect major leak

Helping with the road to recovery

Helping with the road to recovery

Support for Corey Williams after freak accident.

Drink driver carrying home-made bomb sentenced

premium_icon Drink driver carrying home-made bomb sentenced

Bellingen man also found carrying loaded rifle inside car.