This is the full copy from my story which appeared in Metro – read on to find out the shocking twist in the story.
The female raccoon, who smuggled herself aboard a ship travelling from the USA to Britain, has been given a warm welcome by a couple who own a sanctuary for apes and monkeys.
The cheeky critter, named Meeko, somehow climbed into a shipping container which was loaded onto a cargo vessel docked in Davenport, Iowa. She spent a month at sea before arriving in Liverpool three weeks ago, having travelled nearly 4,000 miles.
Meeko, still hidden in the container, was then loaded onto a lorry and driven to South Wales.
She was finally discovered when the container, which was carrying manufacturing parts, was unpacked in Ebbw Vale.
Her rescuers think Meeko could only have survived the four-week trip by drinking condensation and eating cardboard stored in the container.
Jan said she was more than happy to grant asylum to bold American adventurer, whose black marks around her eyes make her look like a masked bandit on the run.
She said: “Meeko can never return to the USA. The American government aren’t going to pay for her to go back — that would be like asking the British government to arrange for a fox to come back from the states.
“They’re regarded as vermin so Meeko would be put down if she went home.
“We are keeping her safe here. She can live with us in Wales now.”
Meeko, who was named after the raccoon character from the popular Disney film, Pocahontas, is settling into life in the sanctuary, tucking into meals of boiled eggs, fruit and cat biscuits.
Jan said: “It is not the first time we have been called out to rescue stowaway animals.
“But usually we take in apes and monkeys who have accidentally climbed on board a ship and found themselves in Britain.
“We have never had anything to do with raccoons before. They are very different to the apes, wolves and foxes we’ve taken in before.”
Jan, who has run the sanctuary for 14 years, said Meeko has been left shaken by her experience, but is slowly regaining her health.
She said: “She was really thin when she arrived. She is still in quarantine but she is finally starting to put some weight on.
“But she is getting more inquisitive and spends a lot of time looking out of the window.”
Jan, who runs the sanctuary in Abercrave near Swansea, is planning on keeping Meeko permanently.
“We have to build a completely new enclosure for her — somewhere she can sleep and play,” she said.
“We are also working with a wildlife conservation centre in Belgium to see if we can bring some other raccoons over as friends for Meeko.”
It is standard practice to keep wild animals who arrive in the UK in quarantine while they are examined.
Vets who examined Meeko yesterday (WEDNESDAY SEP 25) estimate she is around two years old.
And in a surprising twist, Graham and Jan have been told she could have crossed the Atlantic while pregnant.
Graham said: “The vet felt her stomach and thinks she may have a baby soon.
“But he doesn’t think the foetus could have survived the four month trip in a cargo ship with very little to eat. We’ll just have to wait and see.
“Apart from that she is healthy.”
Graham said capturing the raccoon for vet Gareth Mulligan’s examination proved a challenge.
Graham said: “It was like trying to wrestle a tiger. She was growling and biting, but eventually we got her in a net.”
Jan and Graham are now awaiting results of blood tests to find out if Meeko really is pregnant.