The 50cm crocodilian reptile is one of three caimans rescued recently that were delivered on Friday to the Lausanne Vivarium, a zoo specializing mainly in reptiles and spiders, newspaper Le Matin reported.
"It was discovered by customs officers at the Basel border. The smuggler was transporting it taped to a thigh under his trousers," zoo boss Michael Ansermat told the newspaper.
All three caimans are thought to be between one and two years old, as they have already developed sharp little teeth.
“They finally have a cage and a space for their needs, with plenty of water. They needed it," Ansermat told Le Matin.
People who buy reptiles without knowing how to keep them often put them into bathtubs, Ansermat said. Cantonal vets that come across animals in such conditions are able to confiscate them, and can then pass them on to zoos, which often also act as refuges.
The number of live animals confiscated each year at the Swiss borders is quite high.
“We expect between 50 and 70 a year,” Regula Kennel, spokesperson for the Federal Veterinary Office told Le Matin.
But customs officials believe the real number is actually higher.
“We made nearly 600 seizures last year,” Walter Pavel, communications officer for Swiss customs, said. “But that includes not only live animals but also banned animal-based products”.
Customs regularly find live frogs in the post, although many do not survive. They also find the skins and flesh of animals, including monkey and elephant meat.
“The latter is regarded by some as a delicacy,” Pavel said.
View photos of the rescued caimans: Le Matin