Border Force officers at Heathrow’s Terminal 4 found 165 turquoise dwarf geckos which were being imported last month in a consignment of animals which also included chameleons, scorpions and frogs.
Turquoise dwarf geckos are critically endangered and are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). They are currently only found in two locations in Tanzania.
The seizure was referred to investigators from the National Crime Agency’s Border Policing Command.
On Friday 20 March NCA officers executed a search warrant at an address in the Swindon area, arresting a 41-year-old man on suspicion of an importation offence. He was later bailed until July pending further enquiries.
Grant Miller, head of the Border Force CITES team, said:
This was a highly significant seizure. This particular species of gecko is incredibly rare and there are strict laws against its capture in Tanzania.
The movement of endangered species is part of an illicit and often cruel trade that Border Force, together with other agencies, is rigorously determined to stop.
The geckos are now being cared for at a secure facility.
Also seized from the same consignment were 136 bearded pygmy chameleons, 112 peacock tree frogs, 192 whip scorpions and 66 yellow-headed geckos. These species are not listed as endangered.
Border Force is responsible for frontline detection and seizure duties on the illegal trade in endangered animals and plants which is covered by the CITES convention and other regulations. The convention covers more than 35,000 species of animals and plants, whether they are traded as live specimens or as derivatives.
The Heathrow-based Border Force CITES team are specialist officers who work closely with the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), NCA and police to provide expert advice on border operational issues. They are recognised as world leaders in their field.
Anyone with information about activity they suspect may be linked to smuggling should call our hotline on 0800 59 5000.