Dozen smuggled iguanas are flown home to Bahamas

Thirteen iguanas were rescued, but one was found to have died in transit.
Thirteen iguanas were rescued, but one was found to have died in transit. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Twelve critically endangered iguanas seized from Romanian smugglers at Heathrow Airport have been returned to their native Bahamas.

The reptiles were discovered stuffed into suitcases and each wrapped in a sock by Border Force staff at the airport's Terminal 5 in February.

The San Salvador rock iguanas are so rare that only a few hundred are known to be in existence and their trade is strictly controlled.

They were brought to Britain from the Bahamas by Angla-Alina Bita, then 26, and Vitora-Oliva Bucsa, 24, and were bound for Dusseldorf in Germany. Both women have now been jailed for 12 months.

Susie Pritchard, deputy manager of the Animal Reception Centre, City of London Corporation, prepares the iguanas for their flight home.
Susie Pritchard, deputy manager of the Animal Reception Centre, City of London Corporation, prepares the iguanas for their flight home. Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire/Press Association Images

It is hoped the iguanas can soon be released back into the wild.

The reptiles were given free passage aboard a British Airways flight and were allowed to travel in the main cabin..
The reptiles were given free passage aboard a British Airways flight and were allowed to travel in the main cabin.. Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Grant Miller, head of the Border Force's endangered species team, said it had been an "incredibly significant" seizure and that it was clear from the start that it was vital to return them to their natural habitat.

He added: "Not only has Border Force made sure that the criminals responsible for smuggling these animals are behind bars, we're also proud to have been able to play a part in safeguarding the future of this species."