2 jailed for smuggling rare iguanas

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Ecuador Iguana Park

Two smugglers who were were caught with 13 "priceless" iguanas that they had stuffed into socks have been jailed for a year.

Romanians Angla-Alina Bita, 26, and Vitora-Oliva Bucsa, 24, pleaded guilty at Isleworth Crown Court to illegal importation and were each sentenced to 12 months in prison, the Home Office said.

The two women were arrested at Heathrow Airport in February after arriving on a flight from the Bahamas, and were found to have the reptiles stuffed into suitcases.

Grant Miller, from the UK's Border Force, said: "The rarity of this particular species made this an incredibly significant seizure. The iguanas are critically endangered and in effect priceless.

"This makes it all the more shocking that someone was willing to take them from their habitat and transport them halfway around the world in these kinds of conditions.

"We are now working with the Bahamian authorities to try to return them to where they belong."

The women were on their way to Dusseldorf, Germany, with the San Salvador rock iguanas, which are native to the Bahamas and classed as being under threat of extinction.

The 12 lizards which survived the trip were given to experts in the UK, who aim to return them to the Caribbean.

Sarah Goddard, from WWF, said: "At a time that criminal gangs are threatening the very future existence of some of our most precious animals, it is good to see UK authorities clamping down on the traffickers posing a serious threat to the survival of endangered species such as these iguanas.

"These convictions are a victory for all those fighting wildlife crime."

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