A holidaymaker revealed how she screamed with fright after discovering a rare lizard had stowed away in her suitcase and travelled all the way back to her house.
But after the initial shock, Sue Banwell-Moore fell in love with the rare Chioninia lizard after realising just what the 6in-long reptile had gone through to make it to her front room.
For not only had Larry the Legend, as she christened the creature, survived a 3,500-mile flight from Cape Verde Islands to Britain in the freezing luggage hold of an aeroplane and the drive back to Sue’s home in Churchinford, near Taunton, but even when he arrived at Sue’s home his ordeal was not over.
Sue had a load of washing to do after her holiday and unwittingly put Larry in the washing machine as he was hidden among clothes.
“I was hanging out the washing on the clothes dryer, I looked down and there was this lizard there,” said Sue. “I put a saucepan over it, and called my daughter – she was screaming with laughter and I was screaming with shock.
“I lifted the saucepan and it had moved, so I realised it was still alive.
“My friend came round who wasn’t scared of it, and held it and warmed it up and then I realised what the poor thing had been through, and I sort of fell in love with it,” she added.
“It must have got into my suitcase on the last day. The funny thing was that for the whole two weeks there I only saw one lizard, and that was on the beach. Cape Verde is beautiful but it’s pretty bare and there’s not much wildlife,” she added.
Larry now has one more journey to take – the 25 miles from Churchinford to the Tropiquaria Wildlife Park near Williton, where he will live out his days.
The park’s director Chris Moiser jumped at the chance to take Larry in. “It is very rare – Cape Verde islands is one of those places with native species found nowhere else in the world, it’s so remote,” he said.
“We have it down to one of two species but to tell the difference between these we need to carefully count some of the small facial scales, which is rather difficult on a relatively small lizard, which moves at speed,” he added.