Former Animal Planet TV host sentenced for illegal lizard sale

Tue Mar 25, 2014 2:18pm EDT

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(Reuters) - Donald Schultz, the former host of a popular Animal Planet TV show featuring some of the world's most deadly creatures, was sentenced in a California federal court on Tuesday to community service and $9,000 in fines for selling two endangered lizards online.

Schultz had pleaded guilty last year to trying to sell the desert monitor lizards to an undercover federal agent who answered a 2010 online ad seeking about $3,000 for the reptiles, according to officials at U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California.

The former host of Animal Planet's "Wild Recon" was charged with one count of violating the Endangered Species Act, a federal law that protects and recovers imperiled species and ecosystems.

According to federal prosecutors, Schultz met with an undercover agent posing as a prospective buyer at his home in Los Angeles where he agreed to ship the reptiles to another buyer in Buffalo, New York.

The desert monitors, a species of monitor lizard found in North Africa and South Asia, were recovered by a federal agent in New York.

Under a plea deal, Schultz agreed to pay a $6,000 fine, $3,000 in restitution and 200 hours of community service, prosecutors said.

Schultz, who hails from South Africa, has made his living in handling and researching the world's most dangerous animals, insects and reptiles. Three years ago, he spent 10 days in a glass box in Las Vegas with 100 venomous snakes to "test the limits of human/serpentine co-habitation," according to a statement from Animal Planet.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; editing by Scott Malone and G Crosse)

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