Iguana trading charge denied

A Rhinoceros Iguana

A Rhinoceros Iguana

A man who was previously connected with a pet shop in Ballymena called ‘Jungle World’ is denying a charge of trading an endangered species - an Iguana.

Richard Potter (34), of Hollow Lane, Cloughmills, is charged with acquiring for commercial purposes an animal, namely a ‘Rhinoceros Iguana’, as prohibited by the Control of Trade in Endangered Species regulations.

It is alleged the offence was committed on a date unknown between January 1, 2013 and January 16, 2016.

He also faces a second charge that on dates unknown during the same period he displayed to the public, for commercial purposes, a Rhinoceros Iguana as prohibited by the same regulations.

The case was mentioned for the first time at Ballymena Magistrates Court on Thursday but the accused was not in the courtroom.

His defence barrister, Neil Moore, said the charges are to be contested. Mr Moore said the case will come down to the evidence of an expert.

He said the case is connected with the former Jungle World in Ballymena.

He claimed that “essentially the animal had been shown on a website” and that allegations were made that that was “part and parcel of conducting business”.

Mr Moore said Jungle World is now closed with a bankruptcy notice pending.

The case was adjourned to February to fix a date for the charges to be contested.

Mr Moore told the court he had represented the accused in the past when he had court proceedings.

‘Jungle World’ - which was based on Linenhall Street on the fringes of Ballymena town centre - had been in the news on a number of occasions.

It was an exotic pet shop and also had a small ‘zoo’ out the back.

Among the inhabitants of the premises were a six-foot alligator, a four-foot crocodile, an 18ft python and spider monkeys called Winston and Lillie.

Several years ago Ballymena Borough Council took a court case after a local woman had two of her fingers bitten off by Winston as she was feeding him nuts.

Mr Potter was also convicted of four counts of trading in endangered species after he was arrested by police during an undercover sting while trying to sell four lemurs in a Banbridge car park in 2010.

He was fined £400, but said it was as a result of a missing microchip.

In 2014, a raccoon - nicknamed ‘Rab’ in the media - escaped from Jungle World before being found around 30 miles away in Ballycastle and the story made headlines far and wide.