Meet the Lizard Who Snuck Into a Couple’s Suitcase and Traveled Over 1,000 Miles

Written by Sharon Parry
Updated: September 25, 2023
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A Guernsey couple returned from a recent holiday in Madeira with more than a few souvenirs and a suntan. They discovered that a little lizard had sneaked into their suitcase and hitched a ride back to the Channel Island located in the English Channel between France and the United Kingdom. It gave them a huge shock as it leaped out of their suitcase and ran across the bed!

The couple alerted the Guernsey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (GSPCA) who came to collect him. GSPCA Manager, Steve Byrne explained that the lizard was immediately taken into quarantine at the animal shelter and appeared to be happy and healthy. The aim is to find him a home as soon as it is safe to do so. In the meantime, he is being looked after by the shelter staff and has been named ‘Larry’.

Larry is not the only exotic species to hitch a ride in luggage to the Channel Islands. Already this year, the shelter has been involved in the rescue of two snakes. One was from Mexico and the other from Spain! The moral of the story is to check inside your suitcase before you zip it up!

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Which Lizards Normally Live on Madeira?

Madeira is a Portuguese island located off the coast of Africa. It is a fairly isolated ecosystem because it is in the Atlantic Ocean and is over 400 miles from the west coast of Africa which is the nearest land. The only native reptile species on the island is the Madeiran wall lizard (Teira dugesii). Having said that, some other species have been introduced to the island and have established populations. These include the Tenerife lizard (Gallotia galloti) and the moorish gecko (Tarentola mauritanica).

There have been other reports of lizards stowing away in suit cases in Madeira.

©Castro Cicero/

Do Lizards Normally Stowaway in Suitcases?

There is one animal in particular who seems to have a knack for stowing away in suitcases. This is the Fogo Island skink (Chioninia fogoensis). One hid in the suitcase of an elderly couple who returned to Britain from Madeira in mid-December 2019. It was collected by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and was eventually rehomed with an exotic pet dealer.

This species is actually endemic to the island of Santo Antão, Cape Verde but may now be colonizing Madeira. The same is probably true for the tropical house gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia). This mixing of reptile populations has probably occurred via trade routes because the distances are simply too great for the small lizards to travel in the sea. Introducing non-native species into any environment carries risks including damaging local fauna and flora and carrying diseases and parasites. That’s why it is important to alert the authorities if you find a hitchhiker in your luggage so that they can be quarantined appropriately!  

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Sharkshock/

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About the Author

Dr Sharon Parry is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on dogs, animal behavior, and research. Sharon holds a PhD from Leeds University, UK which she earned in 1998 and has been working as a science writer for the last 15 years. A resident of Wales, UK, Sharon loves taking care of her spaniel named Dexter and hiking around coastlines and mountains.

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