By Charles Wade-Palmer

A holidaymaker got a shock to unzip their suitcase and discover a lizard had snuck in for a 6,000 mile trip from Thailand.

The six-inch stowaway which is a protected species in its Southeast Asia homeland, burrowed inside a suitcase of diving equipment only for its next glimpse of sunlight to be in Derbyshire.

RSPCA Animal Welfare Officer Steve Wickham collected the monitor lizard from the holidaymakers’ home in Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, and has taken it to a specialist reptile centre for re-homing.

Steve said: “Despite being zipped up in a suitcase for at least 24 hours, the monitor lizard appeared to be in good health.

“I took the lizard to a specialist exotics centre to be checked over by a vet and cared for, where it ate almost straight away. The long journey must have made them very hungry!”

Monitor lizards can grow up to 1.5 metres long and their  commercial use is strictly controlled so permission will now be sought from Defra to allow the lizard to move to a zoo or wildlife park.

Steve said: “Thankfully the lizard will now be cared for by experts, however  this is a timely reminder to people to always check your suitcase, clothes, towels and shoes properly when packing to return home from a trip abroad, as you never quite know what surprising souvenir you might bring home with you!”