Rare lemurs among animals found in swoop on caravan at Scots village

ANIMAL welfare investigators and police officers stumbled across a menagerie of exotic animals, including tiny crocodiles and a pair of ring-tailed lemurs, during a raid on a caravan in Perthshire, it has been revealed.

The animals were discovered after officers from the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) received a tip-off about two Madagascan lemurs being advertised for sale on a website.

Officers from the SSPCA, assisted by Tayside Police, swooped on the caravan in a small village near Perth on Thursday and recovered almost 20 exotic animals, said to be worth about 10,000 in total.

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In addition to the two lemurs, the officers also recovered three African dwarf crocodiles, a spectacled caiman, two tortoises and nine snakes, including boa constrictors and pythons.

The animals, which were checked by a veterinary surgeon and found to be in good health, have now been transferred to a holding facility while animal welfare experts decide where they should be housed permanently.

It is believed the raid was ordered after a member of the public saw an advert for the sale of the two ring-tailed lemurs on a website.

The company that runs the website has now removed the advertisement.

It is also understood that the 24-year-old owner of the animals had all the relevant dangerous animal documentation for the reptiles, but did not have the correct paperwork for the two lemurs, which could be worth as much as 4,000 each.

A spokesman for the SSPCA said: "Following a Scottish SPCA and Tayside Police investigation, two ring-tailed lemurs have been signed over into our care."

He added: "A 24-year-old man from Perthshire is assisting with our inquiries and a report will be sent to the procurator-fiscal."

A spokesman for Tayside Police confirmed that officers from the force had assisted investigators from the SSPCA into inquiries being made at a village in Perthshire.

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Ring-tailed lemurs, which are native only to the southern tip of Madagascar, were listed as a near-threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2008. Their habitat is threatened by deforestation, hunting and a sustained period of drought conditions in their native scrublands.

In March last year, Daniel Johnstone, the owner of a pet shop in the Borders, was fined a total of 400 at Selkirk Sheriff Court for failing to have the appropriate licences for a five-foot caiman and western diamond rattlesnake at his shop in Gala-shiels.

Johnstone, a former policeman, admitted failing to keep a licence for either animal at his Border Exotics shop.

Both animals had to be taken to the animal holding centre at Heathrow Airport, the only place in the UK capable of looking after such dangerous species.

The caiman later found a new home at the Torremolinos crocodile park in Spain's Costa del Sol.