A holidaymaker had a shock on their return from Thailand while unpacking their suitcase – when they came across a stowaway lizard which is a protected species in its homeland.

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The six-inch lizard had burrowed themselves inside a suitcase of diving equipment, which was then transported 6,000 miles across the world by airplane.

RSPCA Animal Welfare Officer Steve Wickham collected the lizard from the holidaymakers’ home in Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, and took it to a specialist reptile centre, where it was identified as a clouded monitor lizard – a protected species in its native Thailand – which can grow up to 1 to 1.5 metres long.

Steve said: “Despite being zipped up in a suitcase for at least 24 hours, the monitor lizard appeared to be in good health. I took the lizard to a specialist exotics centre to be checked over by a vet and cared for, where it ate almost straight away. The long journey must have made them very hungry!”

As the lizard is a protected species in their native country and their commercial use is strictly controlled, permission will now be sought from Defra to allow the lizard to be transferred to a new home in a zoo or wildlife park.

“Thankfully the lizard will now be cared for by experts,” said Steve. “However, this is a timely reminder to people to always check your suitcase, clothes, towels and shoes properly when packing to return home from a trip abroad, as you never quite know what surprising souvenir you might bring home with you!”

The RSPCA is a charity and we rely on public donations to exist. To assist our inspectors in carrying out their vital work please text HELP to 78866 to give £3. (Texts cost £3 + one standard network rate message.)