Officers boarded a Turkish-registered ship at 9am on Sunday 23 September to carry out checks on the vessel and its crew.
During initial enquiries, the master of the vessel stated that there were four live chameleons on board belonging to the crew. He added that the lizards had been bought as pets in Casablanca, the ship’s last port of call.
The lizards were being kept in unsuitable conditions on the ship, with one living on a tree branch placed in a shower room while another was being kept in a crew member’s overalls pocket which was zipped shut and stored in a locker.
The chameleons were seized by Border Force officers under CITES - the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
Travellers are also not allowed to bring internationally-protected endangered animals and plants, including products made from them, into the UK unless they have a permit.
The crew received a warning from officers and were allowed to continue picking up their cargo of steel from Cardiff docks.
Alex Lawther, from Border Force in Wales, said: ‘These chameleons were being kept in unsuitable conditions and our officers acted quickly to make sure they can now be cared for properly and have the best possible chance of survival.
‘Border Force officers in Wales take their role in enforcing international agreements like CITES very seriously and anyone travelling to the UK should be aware that they cannot bring endangered animals and plants into the country without a permit.’
Officers transported the four chameleons to Bristol Zoo where they are expected to remain in quarantine for several more weeks before being cared for in the reptile house.