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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 September 2007, 07:56 GMT 08:56 UK
Man 'steals iguanas in fake leg'
Fiji Island Banded Iguana (Brachylophus fasciatus)
This iguana, and the other three found, will now be re-housed
A Californian man has been charged with using his false leg to smuggle three endangered iguanas from a nature reserve in Fiji to the United States.

Prosecutors say Jereme James stole the banded iguanas while on a visit to the South Pacific island in 2002.

He is alleged to have constructed a special compartment inside his prosthetic limb to move the reptiles.

Officials began investigating Mr James after receiving a tip off that he was in possession of several of the beasts.

The Fiji Island Banded Iguana (Brachylophus fasciatus), noted for its bright green skin, is threatened with extinction and protected under an international treaty regulating trade in endangered species.

Mr James could face up to five years in prison if convicted.

'Admission'

Having been informed that Mr James had several specimens at his home, the United States Fish & Wildlife Service launched an undercover investigation into his activities.

On one occasion, Mr James reportedly told an undercover agent that he sold three banded iguanas for the sum of $32,000 (16,000) four years ago.

When Mr James's house was searched in July agents are said to have found a further four banded iguanas.

Officials say they think Mr James was breeding the animals for sale.

"That's what we believe has been going on," Assistant US Attorney Joseph O Johns told the Associated Press news agency. "Mother Nature has taken her course."

The iguanas would now be placed in a breeding programme in the US, Mr Johns added.






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