A fearsome-looking giant spider common in Australia gave workers at a British warehouse a fright after travelling over from Asia. The seven-inch-long huntsman spider came over to East Sussex after stowing away in a shipping container packed with BMX parts in Taiwan.
RSPCA Inspector Tony Woodley holds a seven-inch-long huntsman spider
It is believed to have been locked up for six weeks as the container made its way thousands of miles across the oceans before reaching the UK. Shocked staff at Seventies BMX Distribution in St Leonards-on-Sea discovered the arachnid lurking in their delivery while unpacking the boxes.
Warehouse manager Joe Woodburn said: "My mate saw it on the box I was holding. He froze and couldn't get his words out fast enough. "It was as big as the palm of my hand. We managed to get it into a big plastic container where we kept it while we called the RSPCA.
"I thought it was plastic at first as it wasn't moving, but the minute it was in the sunlight it started to warm up and it was running around and jumping up the side of the box. We get containers like this all the time and we have always joked that one day we'd open one up to find some kind of ferocious animal in there, but I never expected to find a spider as big as this."
RSPCA inspector Zoe Ballard was called out to deal with the animal, but admitted she was not the biggest fan of eight-legged creepy-crawlies. Ballard said: "I got the call through as collection of a tarantula, but as soon as I saw it I knew it wasn't a tarantula.
Spider expert Angela Hale with the traveller
"I've been called out to collect a scorpion in the past after someone accidentally brought it back from their holiday, but I've never come across a spider like this before. I managed to secure the spider in the container and took it to the RSPCA's wildlife centre nearby, but I must admit I was worried all the way that it would get out and escape in my van."
The spider has now been rehomed at Drusillas Zoo Park in Alfriston, near Eastbourne, but RSPCA inspector Tony Woodley said it does not generally pose a big threat. He said: "Huntsman spiders can give you a nasty bite, but they aren't likely to cause too much harm unless you suffer an allergic reaction. However, because they are so big and they run around so quickly, they are probably an arachnophobe's worst nightmare.
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"Spiders can survive a long time without food and water. The cold is going to be the main problem for them, but it probably survived the journey because the weather has been fairly mild."
One of the first jobs for Drusillas Park's spider expert Angela Hale is to determine whether the as-yet-unnamed huntsman is male or female. She said: "They are not dangerous or aggressive, but can move extremely fast if disturbed. I am sure it would have given the guys in the warehouse a bit of a fright when they found it."