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Arachnophobes look away now: Could an asbestos-coated tarantula be on the loose in Cardiff?

Skin of suspected Chilean rose tarantula found in abandoned 19th century house

Question: What's worse than a tarantula on the loose? Answer: A tarantula covered in asbestos on the loose. 

It's a scenario seemingly designed to give arachnophobes nightmares, but it's one that a team of asbestos experts working in an attic in Cardiff encountered earlier this week.

According to local press reports, a huge tarantula skin was discovered by workers from the asbestos removal business Kuston Vorland on Tuesday afternoon.

Although not yet confirmed, Cardiff Reptile Centre, who were shown a picture of the skin, believe the animal could be a Chilean rose tarantula.

A spokesperson for the Reptile Centre said they were shown a picture of the skin in a plastic bag - and that it was definitely a tarantula - but they could not say for certain what species it was.

Wales Online reported that the skin was originally found after the asbestos removal team moved into a darkened loft area of an abandoned house in the Roath area of Cardiff.

Surveyor Katie Parsons-Young told the website that as she lifted up a floorboard in the 19th century building, she spotted a large hairy leg underneath.

She told Wales Online: “We had lighting in there so we moved the lighting to the other area of the attic where I was and could see there was something...I was the first in. I sort of saw a leg, screamed and went.”

According to the website the majority of the team fled the building after the discovery, although a handful of braver souls stayed behind to pick up the skin - which they apparently believed was a dead tarantula at the time.

Tarantulas swell in size after shedding, meaning the creature could now be up to twice as big as the discarded skin. The fact the skin was found in a building containing asbestos means the spider could still be coated in the substance.

If the spider does turn out to be a Chilean rose tarantula, it is of little threat to those that encounter it. The Chilean rose is considered a calm and docile creature with weak venom and a bite similar to a bee or wasp sting.

It is not known if the Cardiff tarantula was a lost pet or if there is a breeding population in the area.

Confirmation of whether the skin was indeed infected with asbestos is expected when results come back from a laboratory later this week.