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Giant lizard found in park days after a royal python seen in south London

A giant lizard measuring nearly 4ft was spotted roaming in a park in south London.

Credit: Blue Cross

The Blue tegu, measuring 46 inches from nose to tail, was found abandoned in Morden Hall Park.

The male reptile, thought to be between three and five years old, was chipped, and registered to a French company.

Credit: Blue Cross

Tegus are an omnivorous species which live in tropical rain forests and deserts of east and central South America and can run at high speed.

If threatened they can whip their tails to swipe at aggressors and can even charge and inflict a painful bite. They often use this method in territorial defence, with the mouth open and front legs held wide to look more threatening.

Credit: Blue Cross

Adult males are much larger than the females and can grow to lengths of nearly five feet.

It's very rare that we get reptiles handed into us, we've certainly never seen anything as large as this. We were not sure what it was at first. It's the first tegu we've seen here at Merton. It's lucky to be alive given the recent bitterly cold weather.

We understand that people's circumstances can change and would always urge pet owners to reach out to their nearest animal charity for help if they are struggling with a pet rather than abandoning them to fend for themselves.

– Elise Smith, deputy nurse manager at Blue Cross Merton
Credit: Blue Cross

The Blue Cross Animal Charity generally treats cats, dogs, small animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs at their animal hospitals.

When other species and wildlife are brought in then the team will provide emergency care if needed but will then contact local organisations with more specialist expertise to take on the animal.

Luckily the tegu found a home with Harry Craft, a reptile expert who was recommended to Blue Cross by the exotics team at the Royal Veterinary College.

I'm currently treating the tegu with an injection as he has a respiratory infection. If left without treatment, the infection could have proved fatal but he is making a good recovery.

It's clear that he hasn't been fed the correct diet which has led to him being overweight.

Tegus, like any reptile, require expert care and if they are not handled regularly, they can show aggressive behaviour. If upset or stressed they will start to make a huffing sound before whipping their tail. A tegu can charge and inflict a painful and damaging bite, strong enough to take off a finger.

Exotic animals have extremely complex welfare needs which are very difficult, if not impossible, to meet in the home environment. For the inexperienced, it can be difficult to care for many of these animals in a domestic environment and as a result the animals' welfare can suffer and members of the public put at risk.

– Harry Craft, Student at Royal Veterinary College

Blue Cross advise people against getting exotic pets and have reissued their call on the Government to review exotic pet regulations.

A report carried out by the pet charity in 2016 found tens of thousands of exotic animals easily available online for sale.