A Conwy dad-of-three was left staring in disbelief when a baby gecko dropped from a bag of chillies onto his kitchen work surface. He was even more shocked when it began wriggling around.

Kevin Cuthbert had bought the red-hot Scotch bonnet chillies from the Asda Superstore in Llandudno a week earlier. All but one had been eaten by the time he discovered his hitchhiking gecko, named Scotty in deference to the chillies.

Athough tiny – it was only slightly longer than inch (2.5cm) – Kevin, 53, was determined to keep the reptile alive. He popped it in an ice cream tub lined with stones and ordered a delivery of crickets for food.

“When I found the gecko, it was missing its tail – it must have shed it when it was being packed,” he said. “After a couple of days I noticed it was growing back, so I thought there was a chance it might survive.

“I have three young boys and they’re always asking for a pet – a dog or something – and I’ve always said no. Then all of a sudden, one drops onto my worktop, so I had to keep it.”

Inquiries at the Welsh Mountain Zoo, Colwyn Bay, revealed the tiny critter to be a Crocodile Gecko, also known as a Moorish Gecko. Typically they are found in North Africa and Mediterranean countries. This chimed with place-of-origin labelling on the chillies, which were imported from Spain.

“I went back to the store to tell them what I’d found,” said Kevin. “They couldn’t believe it, so I showed them a photo. They told me to bring in it and they’ll send it to the head office. I said I couldn’t do that, it’s still alive!”

Kevin did his best to keep Scotty alive - he's mystified how the baby gecko survived inside a cold, sealed bag for so long
Kevin did his best to keep Scotty alive – he’s mystified how the baby gecko survived inside a cold, sealed bag for so long (Image: Kevin Cuthbert)

Calling on help from other reptile keepers, Kevin placed Scotty’s tub on a tea towel draped over a radiator at his Llandudno home, to keep it warm. However further inquiries to Conwy Council’s environmental health team produced worrying news.

“I learned that geckos are big carriers of salmonella and other bacteria,” he said. “So I immediately cleared out the fridge and scrubbed it clean. From then on, I wore gloves when moving Scotty’s tub.

“It was worrying I’d already used the other chillies to make savoury rice for the boys. I place the chillis in whole with the rice and let the goodness but not the spiciness soak into the rice, then remove the chillis. I’d not long recovered from food poisoning and I didn’t want them to go through the same thing.”

Before being discovered, the baby gecko lived in an Asda bag of 'fiery and fruity' Scotch bonnet chillies for a week or two
Before being discovered, the baby gecko lived in an Asda bag of ‘fiery and fruity’ Scotch bonnet chillies for a week or two (Image: Kevin Cuthbert)

Feeding the gecko was more problematic than feeding the boys. Losing a tail can be costly for reptiles but US researchers found that, despite being more clumsy without them, they retain the ability to hunt. In trials, geckos successfully captured crickets about 77% of the time with or without tails.

“It was hard catching the tiny crickets from their container,” said Kevin. “I used tweezers to grab them, then had to slam down Scotty’s tub before they jumped out again. But then I noticed he stopped going for them.”

Live Crocodile Gecko in pack of Llandudno Asda chillies left dad with just one thing on his mind – North Wales Live (dailypost.co.uk)