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Rabies scare after three exotic mammals go missing in UK

Mirror logo Mirror 14/03/2017 mathew di salvo
Credits: Getty © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Getty

Health chiefs have issued a rabies alert when three exotic animals disappeared after being illegally imported into the UK.

The opossums - cat-sized marsupials native to South America - are suspected to have gone missing after being smuggled into the country.

A house in Cornwall has been raided in the hunt for the short-tailed mammals.

They were imported with no rabies vaccinations - sparking a public health alert.

Some of the animals have been found during a previous raid on a pet shop in the Midlands and had been illegally imported into the UK and sold online, the Plymouth Herald reported .

Three of them were believed to have been sent to Lostwithiel, Cornwall.

The animals had no import papers and no rabies vaccinations which meant they could have been infected with rabies and may even have been stolen from their natural environment.

Cornwall council has investigated five cases of illegally imported animals in the past year, several of which have included pets bought over the internet and have resulted in stays in quarantine and large vet bills.

Jane Tomlinson, Cornwall's trading standards manager, said: "Smuggled or illegally imported mammals have a very high risk of being infected with rabies.

"This is often a fatal disease in humans and is always fatal to animals.

"Once again I urge everyone not to buy animals over the internet and ensure you see the parents of any young animals before purchase.

"If animals are taken from the wild there is also a risk to the future conservation of species."

Opossums are nocturnal marsupials originally from South America.

Although those scavengers look like rats, they are in fact more closely related to kangaroos.

If discovered, the opossums would have been quarantined for four months, at the expense of the owner at a cost of more than £2,500.

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