Mid-flight centipede scare highlights biosecurity risk

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Media contact: William Minchin

A mid-flight encounter with a dangerous centipede highlights the need for air passengers to check their bags for creepy crawlies before heading to New Zealand.

Crew on a flight from Apia to Auckland recently alerted the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) that a centipede had tried to crawl up a first-class passenger’s leg and was loose in the cabin, says Craig Hughes, MPI’s Northern Border Clearance Manager, Passengers and Mail.

“The passenger apparently brushed off the centipede, which scuttled off, causing some commotion in the cabin.

“By the size of its claws, it would have at least caused a nasty nip.”

Mr Hughes says biosecurity staff were waiting to meet the plane on arrival. Once passengers had disembarked, two quarantine inspectors checked the plane and found the centipede between a seat and the cabin wall.
The unidentified 10cm centipede has since been destroyed.

It’s most likely a passenger accidently carried the centipede onto the plane in their hand luggage, says Mr Hughes.

He says the incident was very unusual, but shows how important it is that arriving passengers check their bags for biosecurity risk items.

“It’s also essential that passengers secure their hand luggage as much as possible so that dangerous critters don’t sneak in before boarding. 

“The last thing that anyone wants is a new population of poisonous centipedes, or worse, crawling around Auckland.”

Photo of centipede available on request.

NB. This interception was made by the Ministry for Primary Industries, not NZ Customs.

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