Kent

Scorpion stowaway in Gillingham student's suitcase

The olive thick tail scorpion Image copyright RSPCA
Image caption The olive thick tail scorpion is roughly the size of a fingernail

If size matters, no-one told this tiny but highly venomous thick tail scorpion that terrified a student when it scuttled out of her suitcase.

The arachnid, roughly the size of a fingernail, survived a 5,600 mile (9,000km) journey from South Africa to Gillingham in Kent.

Megan Royle said she was "freaking out" when she saw it "hop" out of her case.

The RSPCA was called and safely collected the creature, which is classified as potentially dangerous.

Image copyright Megan Royle
Image caption Megan Royle (right) with her mother Lindsey Mallon, and step-dad Paul Kratovil in South Africa

Miss Royle, 22, said she was in the midst of unpacking after her trip away for her mother's wedding, when she spotted the stowaway "hop out of the suitcase and scuttle across the bed".

When she called her mum for help, further panic ensued when she was told "not to worry, it's only the little ones that are dangerous".

Miss Royle, 20, said: "This one was tiny. So then I was freaking out even more."

Following a hasty call to the RSPCA, animal collection officer Brian Milligan arrived on 25 March.

The sandy-coloured scorpion, known as the olive variety, was taken straight to the specialist exotics centre in Brighton.

Image copyright RSPCA
Image caption It was taken to a specialist centre in Brighton

Experts there said they had never seen this breed of scorpion before, but confirmed it was highly venomous, potentially dangerous, and could only be kept in the UK with a Dangerous Wild Animal licence.

Miss Royle said she was "shocked" it had survived the 11-hour journey.

Mr Milligan said animal stowaways were "common" in unsuspecting holidaymakers' suitcases or in shipments of fruit.

He added: "As we approach the Easter and summer holidays, we'd urge families to shake out clothes and check suitcases before and during packing to ensure they don't bring home a surprise souvenir with them."

A special home will be found for the scorpion.

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