No one has been charged as yet in connection with a Customs investigation that followed the discovery of an exotic pet, a sugar glider possum, on a Cayman Airways jet.

Two people, a 31-year-old man and 26-year-old woman, were arrested and bailed in the aftermath of the incident, where the pet, a tiny marsupial similar to a flying squirrel, got loose on the plane. The Cayman Compass has previously reported that one of those arrested was Jimel McLean, son of East End MLA Arden McLean.

No names have been officially released by Customs. Charles Clifford, Collector of Customs, confirmed this week that the suspects had been bailed until July 11 as the investigation continues.

The Compass understands that other non-indigenous animals, including snakes and a lizard, were discovered in a follow-up search of a property in Grand Cayman following the incident with the sugar glider.

The Department of Agriculture has declined to comment on the investigation or the fate of the animals, though it says the normal procedure in such cases would be for the pets to be put down.

Brian Crichlow, deputy director of the DoA, said, “In the vast majority of cases where illegally smuggled animals are seized there exists no verifiable information or documentation as to the animals origin and health status, and as such the only prudent course of action is to immediately destroy the animal.

“In the absence of any such documentation it is impossible to re-export the animal, as no importing country will accept an animal without supporting documentation and health certification.”

Speaking generally, Mr. Crichlow said it was illegal under the Animals Law for any animal to be imported into the Cayman Islands without a valid import permit issued by the department. The National Conservation Law also regulates the introduction of non-native species into the Cayman Islands.

Mr. Crichlow said the DoA also evaluated the risk of imported animals bringing in diseases that could impact other animals or humans before issuing a permit.

He added, “Any animal that is not native to an environment and that has the potential to survive and become established in that new environment has the potential to be invasive and to pose a threat to the environment into which it is introduced. Examples of the very serious and destructive consequences of introduction of invasive alien species can be seen throughout the world.

“Often all of the potential impacts and consequences cannot be fully anticipated and may not reveal themselves for many years. In the Cayman Islands one needs to look no further than the green iguana and the lionfish to understand these risks.”

He said the law also applied to common domestic pets, though permits, with conditions, were more likely to be issued in such cases.

He added, “Even with common domestic pets and food animals, the Department of Agriculture maintains very strict import conditions that must be met and adhered to in order to prevent the potential introduction of associated pests and diseases.”

He said anyone who illegally imports animals, either without a permit or in violation of the conditions of that permit, “place the islands, the environment, native fauna and flora, domestic animals and the human population at risk from either or both pest or disease that may be imported with the animals, or from the invasive potential of the animal itself.”

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