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Scorpion stowaway found in Wicklow woman’s bag

A Co Wicklow woman had a lucky escape after she carried a scorpion stowaway back with her from a recent holiday in Kenya.

Lorraine Dempsey discovered the scorpion in an unpacked bag 12 days after her return home.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Ms Dempsey said she lifted up her laundry basket to find a scorpion looking back at her.

“For the first couple of seconds I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, but then I realised I had just come back from Kenya 12 days before.

“My brain wasn’t playing tricks on me, and it was indeed a scorpion.”

The scorpion quickly scuttled away, leaving Ms Dempsey to search on the internet for what to do if you find a scorpion in Ireland.

The Fisher’s Fat-tail scorpion has a nasty, but non-fatal, sting

She eventually got in touch with the National Reptile Zoo, who were able to tell her how to safely find and capture the scorpion.

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Ms Dempsey’s four children, who are aged between eight and 20, were in the house at the time, as were her two dogs.

“I was saying to my kids ‘there’s a scorpion in the house’,” Ms Dempsey said. She got her dogs and youngest child out of the house before she began her search.

“So I had five of my friends come over with heavy gloves and boots, and we set about a plan of how to go through my bedroom.

“The six of us went into the room and we basically had to take every single item of clothing and shoes and files and everything out of my room piece by piece.”

Lorraine rounded up reinforcements in her search for the unwanted guest

It took them about an hour-and-a-half to find the scorpion hiding under the bed.

“I suppose it was stunned once the light hit it, and then we just dropped a plastic box over the top of it and we were able to secure it,” she said.

Although she originally believed the scorpion to be a deadlier variety from Kenya, it turned out to be a Fisher’s Fat-tail scorpion, whose sting can cause breathing issues, but is non-fatal.

Ms Dempsey says she was more panicked than scared when she saw the scorpion.

“I Googled ‘scorpions from Kenya’ and the first thing that pops up is this Kenyan Deathstalker, which are highly venomous and can prove fatal for children and older people.”

So I said: “Right, Kenny the Kenyan deathstalker, here we go. This is who we’re looking for.

“We tried to make light of it despite being quite anxious about looking for this thing.”

The name Kenny stuck and the scorpion is now safely with the National Reptile Zoo in Kilkenny, after Ms Dempsey and her eldest daughter brought it to its new home.

“I secured him in a box and then another box and signage just in case,” Ms Dempsey explained.

“I thought if I even crashed on the motorway at least there’s a warning on this box.

Kenny was safely tucked up in a box, within a box, for the journey to Kilkenny

‘Not unusual’ for animals to come back in luggage – Zoo director

National Reptile Zoo director James Hennessy said his current guess is the 2cm predatory arachnid is about two years old, but still does not know its sex.

As the Fisher’s Fat-tail scorpion is not on the IUCN’s red list of endangered species it can stay in Ireland, where the zoo said Kenny will assist in its educational programmes.

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The scorpion was very dehydrated and “quite wrinkly”, and has been returned to the kind of habitat they should be living in, Mr Hennessy said.

“He or she, possibly she actually, is doing really well. We fed it last night so we’re going to check this morning to see how she took the food we gave.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Hennessy said that anyone who finds an unexpected animal or insect should ask someone to help them identify it.

Mr Hennessy said Ms Dempsey acted correctly by calling him for advice and managing to capture Kenny by herself.

It is not unusual for staff to receive calls about animals that come back to Ireland in passengers’ luggage, Mr Hennessy said.

“It happens more often that people would think.

‘It’s mostly geckos and we do get quite a few scorpions. We very occasionally get some frogs, sometimes some snakes.”

Unfortunately most animals do not survive the journey but Kenny is doing well, he said.


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