The team unpacking a delivery of Romano peppers had a big surprise this week, when a small gecko escaped from a crate and scuttled across the veg box packing house floor.
The tiny reptile, which has been identified as a Moorish Gecko, survived a brief chilly journey from farmer Paco Lozano’s organic farm in the Almería region of Spain, to Riverford’s farm.
The peppers were harvested on Friday, and it is thought that the gecko must have climbed into a crate, thinking it looked like a good place to hide. The crates were then loaded on to a refrigerated truck with a temperature of just 8˚C, a bit of a contrast to the 26˚C climate in Almería.
Tony Teague, a fridge team worker, was the one to see the gecko first: “It was a bit of a shock, I just saw something jump from the crate and scuttle across the floor,” he said. “Luckily I was able to find him and pick him up before he got hurt or stood on.”
James Negus who helps run Riverford’s farm at Sacrewell in Peterborough said: “It’s fortunate for this reptile that we have such a short supply chain. The fact that our veg is delivered so fresh means it did not have too long in refrigerated conditions. Reptiles need external heat to survive as they can’t warm themselves like mammals can.”
The gecko is now being rehomed with help from a specialist exotic animal expert.
Founded by farmer Guy Watson in 1987, Riverford Organic Farmers are best known for their iconic veg boxes, and deliver to around 47,000 homes a week across England.
Due to the UK’s colder climate, they use small scale family farmers overseas to grow items like peppers and bananas.
The gecko is not the first foreign friend they have found hiding in their fruit and veg. Previous visitors include a Caribbean lizard and a European tree frog.