Customs officers are continuing to investigate an attempt to import a sugar glider possum into the Cayman Islands last week.
The discovery of the small animal on a Cayman Airways flight, and the discovery of other nonindigenous animals, including snakes and a lizard, in a follow-up search has caused concern among environmental watchdogs.
They fear imported pets could get loose in the wild in Cayman and threaten the ecosystem, as happened with green iguanas, which are believed to have been brought to the Cayman Islands initially as pets.
Charles Clifford, collector of Customs, declined to reveal what other animals had been found, saying the investigation is still active and there would be no further comment from his department.
Customs has already stated that a 31-year-old man and a 26-year-old woman were arrested following the incident last Wednesday, when the sugar glider got loose on a flight from Miami.
The Cayman Compass understands from several sources that one of the people arrested in connection with the incident is Jimel McLean, the son of East End MLA Arden McLean.
Attempts to reach Jimel McLean by press time Monday were unsuccessful.
Mr. Clifford said, “Once the investigation is completed, the file will be sent to the director of Public Prosecutions for a prosecutorial decision, which is the normal practice.”
The confiscated animals have been handed over to the Department of Agriculture. The DOA referred all questions about the investigation and the animals to Customs.
The department has not commented in relation to this incident, but spoke generally about the issue of exotic pet imports in a previous media commentary.
At the time, a DOA official said, anyone looking to import an unusual animal needed to apply for a permit.
Speaking specifically about sugar gliders, which are popular as pets in Florida, the official said the department would be unlikely to offer a permit for that type of animal.
“With regards to sugar gliders, these are insectivores/omnivores and would pose a very significant threat to local insect and plant populations,” the official said.
Fred Burton, who heads the National Conservation Council’s invasive species committee, said the Department of Environment acts as a consultative body on animal imports.
For species like sugar gliders, he said, his understanding is that under current DOA policy, permits for such species would be refused.
“Otherwise, they would consult with us, and we would offer our advice from the invasive species concern perspective, which is normally accepted and acted upon,” Mr. Burton said. “What that means in practice is that novel exotic animal pets are not allowed to be imported here, because we know from experience that unexpected consequences can be extremely severe.”