Prickly customer: Sniffer dog on point as Kiwi cactus smuggler pinched

New Zealand has very strict biosecurity laws
New Zealand has very strict biosecurity laws GABRIEL BOUYS AFP/File
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Wellington (AFP)

New Zealand authorities have snagged a woman who tried to smuggle hundreds of cactus plants hidden in stockings strapped to her body through airport security.

Auckland woman Wenqing (Wendy) Li, 38, pleaded guilty to breaching strict biosecurity laws when she tried to sneak in the plants from China in March 2019.

She was sentenced to 12 months intensive supervision and 100 hours community work in an Auckland court, the Ministry of Primary Industries said Wednesday.

"She strapped stockings containing 947 succulents and cacti on to her body and attempted to smuggle them into the country," it said in a statement.

"The cacti included eight endangered and threatened species. The plants were worth over NZ$10,000 ($7,200)."

When a sniffer dog began to show interest, she tried to dispose of the plants in the airport toilets, where they were found by enforcement officials.

Ministry investigator Simon Anderson said the court had made a strong point.

"This sentencing serves as a good reminder that anyone who smuggles plants or other endangered species into New Zealand can expect to be prosecuted," he said.