BAGGAGE SCALES: Couple’s shock after finding stowaway lizard in suitcase

Berni Hughes and husband Kelvin with a photo of the lizard found in the suitcase.
Berni Hughes and husband Kelvin with a photo of the lizard found in the suitcase.

A Derbyshire woman has spoken of her surprise after finding a stowaway lizard hiding in her husband’s suitcase - after travelling 6,000 miles and passing through three airports undetected.

Berni Hughes, 59, discovered the creature as she unpacked her husband Kelvin’s luggage following a diving holiday in Thailand.

The reptile is being cared for by the RSPCA.

The reptile is being cared for by the RSPCA.

“When I told him to bring me a present back I was expecting perfume - not a lizard,” said Berni.

“I wasn’t frightened when I opened the case, I quite like lizards, but I was more concerned for its safety.”

The six-inch lizard, which is a protected species in Thailand, had burrowed inside a suitcase of diving equipment, which was then transported across the world.

Kelvin, 66, a retired finance worker, said: “I spent a week out on a boat at sea off the coast of Thailand and then came back to land for a few days.

“I hadn’t finished packing because half of my suitcase was for clothes and the other half for my diving gear which needed to dry out properly, so it must have slipped in when my case was open.

“I’ve been diving for more than eight years and never heard of anything like this happening.

“The slightly concerning thing is the state of airport security as the lizard went through three airports and wasn’t picked up, but it may have been because it’s bones were too small to show up on the monitors.”

The lizard was collected by the RSPCA from the couple’s Tom Lane home in Chapel-en-le-Frith, High Peak, and has been identified by a reptile specialist as a clouded monitor lizard which can grow to one to 1.5 metres in length.

Kelvin said: “There is no way we could have kept it, not if it grows that big. I’m intrigued to see where it will now go.”

RSPCA Animal Welfare Officer Steve Wickham said: “Despite being zipped up in a suitcase for at least 24 hours, the lizard appeared to be in good health. I took the lizard to be checked over by a vet and cared for, where it ate almost straight away.”

As the lizard is a protected species in Thailand and 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.

Steve added: “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.”