Canberra student who sold primate skull to Pirates of the Caribbean fined $5,500

Canberra student who sold primate skull to Pirates of the Caribbean fined $5,500

Canberra student who sold primate skull to Pirates of the Caribbean fined $5,500

Updated 8 February 2018, 19:15 AEDT

A judge likens illegal traders of endangered species specimens to "environmental vandals of the 21st century" when fining a Canberra student who sold a primate skull to the makers of the Pirates of the Caribbean.

A Canberra student who sold a primate skull to the makers of Pirates of the Caribbean movie has been fined $5,500 for illegally possessing endangered species specimens.

Brent Philip Counsell, 28, pleaded guilty to 14 charges, which also included illegally importing specimens.

The ACT Magistrates court heard he ran an online business trading in the specimens, some of which he bought from an Indonesian contact, and others from online trading site eBay.

The court heard one primate skull was sold to the makers of American fantasy swashbuckler franchise Pirates of the Caribbean.

The ABC is not suggesting the filmmakers were aware the specimens were obtained illegally.

In a statement sent to the ABC, the federal Environment and Energy Department said its officers seized up to 100 specimens from the Deakin home in June 2016.

"The man appeared before the ACT Magistrates Court today on charges of possessing or importing specimens including: Asian wild cat skulls, bear skulls, a gibbon skull, owl skulls, monkey skulls, a water monitor skull, hornbill skulls, a flying fox skull, a taxidermied common buzzard, a hippopotamus tooth, a bear tooth and a claw of a medium-large cat," the statement read.

The offences were in breach of an international convention that is aimed at ensuring the international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

It is illegal in Australia to possess and import species listed under this convention without a permit.

Counsell's lawyer Bridget Dunne told the court Counsell had a passion for collecting since he was a child.

"He never made much money," Ms Dunne said.

"He used the money to fund his own collection."

Prices for the skulls listed on his website, and detailed in the statement of facts, ranged from $180 for one monkey skull to $480 for a common buzzard specimen, which he said he imported from Germany.

Other items included a primate skull threaded on a necklace and two striped water monitor skulls.

Prosecutors told the court other evidence included advice he gave customers about avoiding detection when sending skulls overseas.

When a contact warned him to take it down before authorities noticed, he replied:

"Reckon they are that clever?"

Ms Dunne said the Heritage, Museums and Conservation student understands he did the wrong thing.

"He fully accepts he should have obtained permits," he said.

Magistrate Ken Cush noted the low price.

"It's almost macabre your know, trading in skulls," he said.

"Those involved in the trade are the environmental vandals of the 21st century.

"The lives of animals are very cheap indeed."

Magistrate Cush found the man knew his acts were illegal and placed him on a good behaviour order as well as fining him.