Thursday, 29 July 2010

Tarantulas on the loose in Britain

By Andrew Hough, The Daily Telegraph, July 28, 2010

Britain could be facing a tarantula invasion after a number of the spiders were discovered in gardens in some parts of the country, wildlife experts have warned.

The RSPCA has issued an alert urging people to be on their guard amid fears a large batch of the spider has escaped in the north of the country.

The alert came after two separate incidents involving 10cm-wide Chilean Rose tarantulas in Bolton, Greater Manchester.

The rare arachnids, capable of blinding people by spitting hairs in their eyes, were both found in back gardens within two miles of each other.

Both spiders are the same age, breed and gender.

Experts said it suggested they could be part of a larger batch. The slow-moving large spiders from South America are a popular breed among collectors.

Lisa Broad, 20, found the first spider in her garden on the Oldhams Estate in Sharples.

She called the RSPCA, who re-homed the creature, named Fang, at Smithills Open Farm.

Three-and-a-half weeks later another woman from Lostock discovered another tarantula, which was sitting on her garden wall.

The woman, who did not want to be named, eventually trapped it under a plant pot on her path and alerted the RSPCA.

Derek Hampson, an inspector for the animal welfare charity, said: "We advised her to keep it under the plant pot until we arrived. They can quite happily go a week without food, so it was quite content.

"It got a bit aggressive when I picked it up. I wore safety goggles as these creatures can spit hairs which can blind you.

"It is possible there could be more out there, but unfortunately we havent got the resources to search for them."

He added: "It is up to members of the public to call us if they spot any."

Mr Hampson took the female, which is known to kill the male after mating, to Bugworld in Liverpool.

Jenny Dobson, the Bugworld curator, said: "It is rare for one of these to come in and we saw... there had been another with the same characteristics found outdoors.

"It is likely they came from the same place.

"It would be too much of a coincidence otherwise for two breakouts and they cant survive in the wild for long with the UK climate.

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