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Escaped Iguanas Force Passengers Off WestJet Flight

A passenger smuggling lizards from Cuba lost track of his illicit cargo, forcing the airline to remove passengers from a later flight that day until workers could get rid of the cold-blooded stowaways.

A passenger accused of attempting to smuggle four iguanas from Cuba’s Abel Santamaría Airport (SNU) to Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ), was confronted when customs officials discovered evidence of the illicit lizards in the man’s checked bags. Unfortunately, the would-be tropical lizard trafficker could only locate two out of the four iguanas he had originally hidden in his luggage. Faced with the prospect of an invasive species running amok at 35,000 feet, the airline decided to remove the aircraft involved from service.

“A couple of the iguanas has gotten out of the luggage and they’re the types of animals that can chew through wires, so we had to ground the plane and conduct an extermination,” WestJet spokesperson Lauren Stewart told Inside Toronto. “Typically, that’s the kind of thing that would be caught when the passenger was going through on the other end, but they somehow got through to Toronto.”

The plane in question had already started boarding passengers for a flight to Vancouver International Airport (YVR) by the time airline officials learned it might be infested with iguanas. Passengers were quickly removed from the plane to allow workers to look for any iguana-related damage and to fumigate the plane. The travelers who had been chased from their flight by the loose iguanas made the trip to Vancouver on a different aircraft after about a 50-minute lizard-related delay.

Stewart said that operations agents were faced with making decisions under the largely uncharted and unlikely circumstances of an invasion of tropical lizards on an outbound aircraft. ”Apparently, it’s not common at all,” she told CBC News. ”They haven’t heard of this before.”

[Photo: San Diego Zoo]

Comments are Closed.
jtet September 24, 2016

Cold blooded critter. Heat detector? Iguanas are not exactly an endangered species.

TMOliver September 23, 2016

Having dined on Iguana before, I suspect some other Cuban traveler had taken'em home for dinner (not as companions, but as dinner). After all, a tasty brochette of iguana beats most of the airline meals (or lack thereof) encountered during all those years of travel in the back of all too many winged buses.

gum September 23, 2016

Indeed very sad news. I don't know which person is more horrible for me: The trafficker of the lizards or the person who deciced to "terminate them". This shows no appreciation for those animals which are only victims. Better would have been to search with a heat detector or lay out some food and look what happens. think there would have been many zoos being happy to get those lizards in question. But nevertheless: Thanks for reporting.