This Bengali ‘illegal immigrant’ scurried across Heathrow
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This Bengali ‘illegal immigrant’ scurried across Heathrow

The monitor lizard was found on January 17 but it was not known where the reptile’s journey started.

world Updated: Jan 23, 2018 17:03 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
juvenile monitor lizard,Border Force,Heathrow airport
The juvenile monitor lizard seized by the UK Border Force at Heathrow airport.

Immigration officers at Heathrow deal with a wide variety of visitors and immigrants but when a suspected “illegal immigrant” of the Bengal variety scurried around the busy airport last week, it caused some consternation and muchamusement.

The visitor was a juvenile monitor lizard (Varanus Bengalensis) found mostly in the Indian subcontinent. It was seen on the loose around Terminal 4’s baggage area, before being seized by the Border Force’s specialist team dealing with endangered species.

According to the force, the lizard was found on January 17 but it was not known where the reptile’s journey started. “It is believed to be a Bengal variety of monitor lizard,” the force said.

Several flights from India and south Asia land at Terminal 4 daily.

Jan Sowa, officer with the specialist team, said: “Baggage handler staff were probably quite amused when they saw this lizard on the loose, but this could easily have ended tragically.

“We don’t know for sure, but we think the reptile may have been placed in luggage in an attempt to bring it into the UK illegally. This must have caused it considerable distress so it’s a miracle it did not die from shock, the cold or being run over.”

The reptile was housed at a specialist centre near Heathrow, while the specialist team responsible for issues under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) makes efforts to find a suitable home for it.

Sowa added: “Border Force’s specialist CITES team takes its role in preventing illegal wildlife trafficking very seriously and, working together with our partners in the UK and internationally, we are determined to bring it to an end.”

Monitor lizards take several years to reach adult size but once fully grown they can be up to two metres long. Juveniles are usually fed on a diet of crickets, the Border Force said.

First Published: Jan 23, 2018 17:03 IST