Border officials find venomous snakes

A cargo of plucked pigeons bound for British restaurants feature among a range of strange animal finds by the UK Border Agency.

Officials said the pigeons, found stuffed in a briefcase left at a Gatwick airport carousel, had not been claimed.

Other cases of illegal smuggling include a passenger who was stopped at Heathrow trying to smuggle his pet boa constrictor into the UK by wrapping it around his leg, and another passenger who tried to smuggle 40 rare parrot eggs in a customised vest under his shirt.

The eggs were put into an incubator and the parrots that hatched were sent to zoos across Britain. Border officials said they also found a striped animal skin in one man's luggage which they suspected was from an endangered species – before tests revealed that it was actually dog skin painted to look like tiger skin.

A parcel sent from Tanzania was found to contain a puff adder and gaboon viper – both highly venomous snakes. A sniffer dog at Heathrow also discovered a man from Shanghai carrying 42 dried seahorses, which he claimed were for medicinal purposes.

It is illegal to bring undeclared live animals, endangered species of plants and animals or goods made from them into the UK.